The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

A Work of Fiction

Book - 2010
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"The Things They Carried" depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O'Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. It has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, [2010], c1990.
Edition: 20th anniversary ed.
ISBN: 9780547391175
054739117X
Branch Call Number: O'BRIEN T
Characteristics: 233 p. ; 22 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

April 2019

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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

Memorable stories. Vivid language. Brilliant structure. I imagine this is one of those war books that people who passionately hate war books can tolerate, if not enjoy.

O'Brien's straddling the line of fiction and non-fiction is done skillfully and makes this book what it is. This is all true,... Read More »


From the critics


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JCLEmmaC Mar 26, 2020

Thought-provoking and an intense read. A must-read, in my opinion, one that will leave an impact.
The novel, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien allows the reader to identify how the soldiers evolved physically, emotionally, and in their lives to come. The Things They Carried is a collection of stories about the Vietnam War that O’Brien uses to tell his experiences and feelings about the war. The book is filled with stories about the men of Alpha Company and their lives in Vietnam and after. O’Brien talks about the impact the land and the other soldiers had on himself, and the importance of his experience during the war. In The Things They Carried, O’Brien identifies the psychological and physical coping mechanisms that the soldiers created between one another to persevere through the war, and how the experiences affected themselves later in life.

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KWhite190
Mar 26, 2020

"In war you lose your sense of the definite, hence your sense of truth itself, and therefore it's safe to say that in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true" (O'Brien, p. 82). This quote is the heart of The Things They Carried, a novel consisting of war stories that O'Brien is not obliged to inform the reader if they are truthful or not. In the end, absolute truth is not what is important. What is important is O'Brien throughout the book trying to work out his own personal truths and the veracity of his experiences during and after the Vietnam War, his grief, and his PTSD.

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green_penguin_484
Sep 10, 2019

*2019* AMAZING BOOK! Readd in AP ELA Class 1st Quarter. This book tells a great story not just of the Vietnam War, but also of the soldiers in the Vietnam war. A few key themes are what true courage is and should look like, innocence to experience / growing up, how soldiers cope with the horrific war, and that writing has purpose / even a few hidden tips on how to write a good story. ***ALSO COMPLETED: Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur by Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger.***

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EljayJohnson
Jul 26, 2019

This is a novel told in the form of short stories that could individually stand alone (and many did, according to the publishing history). O'Brien both tells his stories about his experiences as a "grunt" in the Vietnam War and discusses writing war stories (and even any stories) as cartharsis. He's also interested in how much "truth" there can ever be in writing - does the very process of writing change the experience being written about? That might sound like so much mumbo jumbo, but I found all of it very interesting, although reading the book was a fairly schizophrenic experience as you go from a very powerful story taking place during the war to an intellectual discussion on writing. O'Brien is an extremely gifted writer and as I was reading this, I felt like he was sitting next to me telling me his stories. I've rarely read something that felt so --- "immediate," I guess is the word I'm looking for. So all of that, plus I fell in love with Kiowa. A really great surprise all in all, especially since I had read his "In the Lake of the Woods" several years ago and didn't like it at all.

r
richibi
May 30, 2019

five big, bright, glorious stars for what must be one of the greatest books of the 20th Century, it'll never leave you, don't not read it

j
johnmerton
May 17, 2019

I read "The Things They Carried" soon after it was published, but was eager to hear Bryan Cranston reading it in the digital book format. The combination of reading and writing is absolutely breathtaking. As a would-be nonfiction writer, I especially appreciated O'Brien's discussion about what a "true" war story is and is not. I'm left with thinking that this "novel" is probably the truest reporting of the Vietnam War ever written.

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Gypsy100
Apr 27, 2019

As a Vietnam veteran, I found this book true to form. Although a fictional portrayal, it is very real. O'Brien is an excellent story-teller and very profound. Karl Marlantes Matterhorn should be read along with this book. Both are exceptionally good and moving.

l
ladams1971
Apr 27, 2019

A different kind of war story about grunts (infantry soldiers) in combat in Vietnam. The author begins with a detailed definition and description of all the equipment ("battle rattle") carried by a grunt, to include their personal items, then the story evolves into a more personal load - those things carried and the thoughts that go on in the mind of the individual. It's a very interesting and well written story written by a former soldier that was there. I'm also a Vietnam veteran so for me the book was personal. As I read the book I sometimes laughed, I occasionally cried, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

s
Starpoem
Apr 24, 2019

This collage of Vietnam War-related stories reflects Baby Boomers' lingering pain and confusion over that era. It's a quick read, but not an easy one.

c
candlesticktroughs
Dec 31, 2018

This is one of those Vietnam novels, written by a soldier who was there. Take that for what it's worth, ok? And don't spit on me when I arrive home at last.

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Quotes

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k
KWhite190
Mar 26, 2020

"I'm young and happy. I'll never die. I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story" (p. 246).

r
reginator_22
Jan 25, 2018

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

c
cknightkc
Sep 19, 2017

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.” - p. 14

c
cknightkc
Sep 19, 2017

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” - pp.65-66

c
cknightkc
Sep 19, 2017

“For the common soldier, at least, war has the feel - the spiritual texture - of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent. There is no clarity. Everything swirls. The old rules are no longer binding, the old truths no longer true. Right spills over into wrong. Order blends into chaos, love into hate, ugliness into beauty, law into anarchy, civility into savory. The vapors suck you in. You can’t tell where you are, or why you’re there, and the only certainty is overwhelming ambiguity.” - p. 78

c
cknightkc
Sep 19, 2017

“For Rat Kiley, I think, facts were formed by sensation, not the other way around, and when you listened to one of his stories, you'd find yourself performing rapid calculations in your head, subtracting superlatives, figuring the square root of an absolute and then multiplying by maybe.” - pp.85-86

c
cknightkc
Sep 19, 2017

"The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” - p. 218

Notices

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k
KWhite190
Mar 26, 2020

Frightening or Intense Scenes: There are a lot of emotionally intense scenes, characters struggling with PTSD, and scenes during the deaths of major characters.

k
KWhite190
Mar 26, 2020

Violence: This is a war novel, after all.

k
KWhite190
Mar 26, 2020

Coarse Language: All the major curse words are included, especially Sh**.

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KWhite190
Mar 26, 2020

KWhite190 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

j
johnmerton
May 17, 2019

johnmerton thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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