The concept of weight in Tim O’Brian “The things they carried”

The book of Tim O’Brian “The things they carried” is dedicated to one of the most complex and heavy themes – the theme of war. The author speaks about the war in Vietnam and its heroes, he makes the story vivid and alive, full of human emotions and experiences. The war is not simply a page in the history of the country, but it is an important page in the lives of thousands of soldiers, since the war changes human lives once and for ever.

“The things they carried” is written by the author as a memoir about the life of soldiers at the war, not only as a history of fighting on the battlefield, but also about the inner experiences and hardships of soldiers and people involved in it. It is known that the war in Viet became one of the most terrible and difficult events in the history of American army and American soldiers, and the author just shows the readers this “weight” of the war in every sense of the expression. That is, O’Brien speaks about the hardships of the Vietnam war, that was closely associated with the physical and emotional weight the soldiers carried.

The first part of the book, or rather first chapter, introduces readers the young soldiers, who are naive and inexperienced. The author shows what these soldiers took with them: some have taken on the war are important and necessary things (such as pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing-gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, etc), and many took photos of loved ones and valuable things to their souls, which give them hope. (O’Brian 1991)

Though many of soldiers had with them as a great “weight” of emotions: it is fear and anxiety, bewilderment, loneliness and isolation, guilt and grief. The things that soldiers carried with them could say a lot about people, for example, some soldiers carried much more ammunition that others, that tells about their fear of war; another people carried good luck charms, like pieces of hope to survive and come back home. Each soldier had his own “weight” of each thing he carried, because each thing is a necessary part of the person’s life, for one reason or another. (Bowden 2003)

And although the author devotes much attention to speaking about the material things of the soldiers, readers can see that this is not the biggest burden for them. The severity of moral burden of inner experiences and grief is a heavier than the physical weight. The author helps to understand the value and meaning of intangible things that the men carried. We can all understand that both the author and all the soldiers had a great moral burden at the war: this is a huge weight of fear of death, of the war; it is the fear and horror of the need to kill another person, that is so morally hard; this is sadness and tears about deaths of friends and people next to you. It is loneliness and isolation, guilt and grief, fear and despair were the hardest burden, the weight that soldiers had to carry through the war.


Works cited
Bowden M. “The Things They Carried”. The New York Times (March 02, 2003). Web.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Penguin, 1991.

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