?The Things They Carried? Essay, Research Paper
Nickolas Kreger Kreger 1
21 September 2000
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
“The things they carried,” is a fictional story of a group of soldiers in the Vietnam War. The story is so realistic that one might forget that it is fiction.
This fictional story seems real because of the attention to detail in what the people carried, what they thought, and how they spoke.
Tim O’Brien was in the Vietnam War and used his knowledge of a soldier’s equipment, Army acronyms and short hand for these when listing the many burdens of the soldiers. His attention to detail is remarkable. In the second paragraph he even gave the history of “several hotel-sized bars of soap that he’d stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. (O’Brien 78) He also lists the weights of most of the items carried by the men such as “the PRC-25 radio, a killer at 26 pounds”. (O’Brien 79) O’Brien also lists the soldiers personal effects and the reasons why they carried them. The adversity and originality of their belongings helps to establish their personality and to make them seem like real people. Kiowa, a devout Baptist carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (O’Brien 78) These physical objects help to add very realistic detail to the story
Another thing that contributed to the sense of reality are how the thoughts and attitudes of the soldiers are revealed in the process of telling the story. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is one of the most realistic characters because much of what he thought is written down. We know of the his love for Martha and some of the odd things he did to express his love for her such as how “he would sometimes taste the envelope flaps knowing her tongue had been there.” (O’Brien 78) and he would imagine romantic camping trips, and walks along the beach with her. These details made him seem like a real person with real feelings and problems. The soldiers’ attitudes and beliefs were also worked into the storyline. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa carried his grandmother’s distrust of the white man, his grandfather’s hunting hatchet.” (O’Brien 78)
The soldier’s speech also helps to cement the story into reality, simply by it’s vulgarity and indifference. Throughout the story the soldiers’ use obscene and odd language to describe things. Kiowa describes Ted Lavenders’ death by saying “the poor bastard just flat-*censored* fell. Boom. Down. Nothing Else.” (O’Brien 80) Their attempts at humor also helped to make it seem more real to life. Kiowa also related Ted Lavender’s death to someone by saying “A pisser, you know? Still zipping himself up. Zapped while zipping.”. (O’Brien 84) O’Brien also used words that were mainly used only in that time period such as: “wiggy” (86), “I’m goofed “ (87) and “Roger-dodger” (86). The soldiers in that time period did talk like that and used that lingo, which contributes to the authenticity of the story.
Someone who was reading this story for the first time or even the second or third time, who was not aware that this is fiction would be hard pressed to tell whether
that story is fiction or non-fiction, because of Tim O’Brien’s attention to detail in describing the burdens, thoughts, and speech of the characters in the story.