Essay About The Things They Carried
Contradictions are a natural part of everyday life, simple ones, and complicated contradictions, and it is normal to find them in our lives, and in novels. The author in the story, The Things They Carried, uses contradictions to explain how he is feeling throughout the war without directly saying it. These contradictions show the hidden messages that Tim O’Brien is trying to get across to the reader. These hidden messages are what help to create his story and give it a deeper meaning. Each one of these messages contributes greatly and helps to emphasize the overall theme of the story, which is that each person carries something with the whether we can see it or not. Some of these things that we carry with us are what can drag us down without anyone even knowing it. In the story “The Things They Carried” the author, Tim O’Brien sends his secret messages through the contradictions that he shares inside of each of his war stories.
One of the contradictions that O’Brien uses in the story is how people like to believe that the reason behind a war is because people are fighting for what they believe in, but in reality, there is not much reason, and people do not even volunteer to do it. This is shown through all of the things that the soldiers carry throughout the war. “They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing—these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.” (O’Brien, 23). This quote explains the trauma, stress, and guilt that the soldiers go through within the war. Each tangible and intangible item adds weight to the soldiers and makes the war even harder for them to get through. The reason for fighting in the war is lost as they can’t even remember what they believe in once they hear the first gunshot.
O’Brien uses a contradiction, to show how “strong” many people may think that the soldiers in the war are, and how strong the war will make them. O’Brien tries to show how people think of how strong they are, and how no one is thinking of the simple fact that they are human. It is human instinct to talk about their problems instead of bottling them up inside. O’Brien shows how soldiers, like any normal human, need to express their feelings, or it can end up badly, and he shows this contradiction through Norman Bowker. In the story, Speaking of Courage, it states, “And then he would have talked about the medal he did not win and why he did not win it.” (O’Brien 135). Norman Bowker was begging anyone to talk to him, to listen to every problem that he had inside of him, and to tell how he lost his very best friend as he was actually trying to save him, but unfortunately, he could not find someone soon enough. This also shows how the war did not make Norman Bowker stronger, like some may think it would, but in fact, it broke him down completely, and that in itself is a contradiction.
Another contradiction that he uses is how he tries to create the theme of a true war story all while making up each of the war stories. One of the stories he wrote titled “The Man I Killed” shows this as it talks about a man who has felt guilty for killing a man during the war. The story states, “Listen to me,’ Kiowa said. ‘You feel terrible, I know that.’ Then he said, ‘Okay, maybe I don’t know.’ (O’Brien 121). As shown in this quote and in this particular story, it seems as if O’Brien is trying to make the reader feel what the character is feeling. This is a contradiction because Tim O’Brien is using this made-up character to express his own true feelings through a story, about a fake character. He portrays this story as if he wants the readers to believe that the stories are actually true. O’Brien did not actually kill anyone, but yet he still felt guilty for all of the other people who died and for the families that were losing someone that they loved. For these reasons, he tried to make the readers feel what he was feeling, which perhaps is why although the story is not true, it truly is a true war story, because the feeling, to him, was all too real.
Overall, in The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien uses different forms of contradictions, in order to make the reader feel exactly how he felt during the war, to let them temporarily put the weight that was on him onto the person reading his novel. Through the made-up/fictional characters and stories, he gave the reader the feeling of how war really is, and not how it is portrayed in movies and other novels, he gave the readers a one time experience of a true war story and helped the readers to understand that not all things are as they seem.