The Things They Carried Essay example

Submitted By andrew131996
Words: 1024
Pages: 5

The Stories They Carried
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien makes apparent that stories are a way to explain to the full reality of the war, a burden in and of themselves, and also a way to carry the emotional burdens of the war. O’Brien is careful to maintain his credibility as a story teller, but he makes clear that the truth of the story goes beyond the literal historical facts and that the apparent credibility of the story should in no way distract from the essence of the story, “there is always that surreal seamingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed” (68). Sticking strictly to the facts does not always tell the full story. Often the storyteller’s creative license is what tells the heart of the story. O’Brien is trying to tell as much of the truth about the war as he can, even if he needs to use stories that are not literally true themselves. O’Brien heard a story from Mitchell Sanders about six soldiers who called for an air strike when there were no enemy nearby (68). Told this way, without the embellishing of a true war story, this story tells nothing about the war except that there were a few dumb soldiers, but when Sanders goes into detail the way the vapor engulfed everything, the voices of the mountains and trees, and the way music rises straight out of the rocks, the listener knows the war is something primal, something mysterious, and something that rises out of the earth as naturally as the vapors in the forest. O’Brien has even told whole stories to accentuate and clarify other stories. Rat Kiley gets upset when he does not get a reply from Lemon’s sister about the letter he wrote to her about her brother’s death, but simply saying they were upset cannot convey someone’s grief. To show Rat Kiley’s experience with Lemon’s death, O’Brien told a story about Kiley and the water buffalo. After Kiley calls Lemon’s sister a dumb cooze for not writing back, Alpha Company came across a baby water buffalo. Kiley is still distraught about his friend’s death and having not received the closure of a response from Lemon’s sister, so he turned to the water buffalo. At first he tries to offer it some food, but when that fails to get a response, he starts shooting the animal, trying to cause as much pain as possible. The water buffalo never made a sound, and Rat Kiley never got the response he was looking for about his friend, Curt Lemon (76). O’Brien put the baby water buffalo exactly where it needed to be to tell the truth of the story. Even if there was never such a baby buffalo, O’Brien still showed the extent of Rat Kiley’s grief and burden. The members of Alpha Company each carried many burdens not the least of which are the stories they had seen and heard. Kiley carried Lemon’s story that he so desperately wanted closure with. He had no one he could share Lemon’s story with. The other members of Alpha Company already knew about Lemon, so telling them would not bring any relief, and they were in a war that they may not make it home from to share Lemon’s story, to keep Lemon’s story alive. As it was, Kiley felt alone in making sure his friend was not forgotten. Lieutenant Cross carried Ted Lavender's death close to his heart, where Martha had once been. Cross had an obsession with his high school crush, Martha, and while thinking about her he became lax with the security of his men. One day, Ted Lavender was shot while Cross is fantasizing about Martha, and Cross took his responsibility as leader personally (24). The emotional burdens of Ted Lavender’s death and