annonFor young people, the Vietnam War is a thing of the past and they canonly learn about it from second hand sources. In Tim O’brien’s TheThings They Carried, it becomes very apparent that the Vietnamconflict has proved to be one that many of the participants have notbeen able move away from, while getting on with their lives. Obrienshows that the conflict takes on a parasitic form that eats away onits victims for the rest of their lives. A parasite is defined as an organism that grows, feeds, and issheltered on or in a different organism while harming its host.Order now
Thewar in this case takes the place of the organism, and the host becomesthe soldiers. There are several examples of the parasitic nature ofwar through out the book. In one particular section, Tim O’Brienreturns to Vietnam with his daughter. Twenty years had gone by, but itseems as though all of his thoughts are geared back to the time he hadspent in the jungle so long before. The two of them travel all overthe country, but before their departure, he returns to the field wherehe feels he lost everything. On this list he includes his honor, hisbest friend, and all faith in himself.
For O’Brien, evidence of theparasite is not solely in his return Vietnam, but rather a constantpersonal preoccupation that seems to flow through the collection ofstories. O’Brien shows how the memories of the war take on a parasiticform, and uses himself as an example. In the chapter Speaking of Courage, O’Brien introduces a characterby the name of Norman Bowker. In the story Norman finds him self homeafter serving his time in Vietnam. Even though he is back in his hometown, things do not seem the same to him. The was seems to have put anew spin on his life.
Most of the story he spends driving in circleswhile thinking about the war and his lack of place in his old society. The war becomes his whole life, and he feels as though he is to fardistant from the town people for them to understand. The reader thenfinds out that Bowker commits suicide because the parasitic affect ofhis memories became to much for him to handle. There is another section in the book where a man named Jimmy Crosscomes to visit O’Brien after the war.
They talk of experiences andhardships, then it becomes apparent Cross has also been unable tototally move on with his life. There are still secrets, and they stillweigh heavy on his mind even during his his every day civilian life. O’Brien never complains about these problems, but it is clear the theybother him a great deal. There are countless themes in this book, but one of the major ones isthe after effects the war had and still has on the men that werethere.
It is clear from O’Brien’s writing on Cross, Bowker, andhimself is more than just story telling. In using these people heattempts to show what the war has done to the population of soldiersthat participated in the conflict.