Friday, September 03, 2021

The Things They Carried


I really related to the matter-of-fact tone of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. There have been times when the only way to get through talking about something had to be very clipped and matter-of-fact in order to keep my vocal chords from closing off. I had a terminally ill child and so many times I’d be in the emergency room rattling off previous medications and surgeries and what brought us there this time with the seemingly emotion of a stone all the while my heart was racing and I held back my fear because once I let it loose, I’d be weeping uncontrollably. The stark tone as the supplies they carry are listed with things interspersed such as “They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity” (O’Brien 1184) felt so familiar as when I rattled off the weight of my son’s mortality that I was trying futilely to bear. It also weaved in the setting of the jungles of Viet Nam in a way that made the life of the soldier so bleak and enduring to the point that the horribleness of it became mundane, which makes it all the more awful seeming as a reader.

Yet in the end Lieutenant Cross strips the weight of the world and home and love from his rucksack because to be a true soldier, a responsible leader of soldiers.  He had to let that all go in order to bear the heavier artillery of the burden soldiers bear. Everything else is gone, stripped away. “Commencing immediately, he’d tell them, they would no longer abandon equipment along the route of march. They would police up their acts” (O’Brien 1189) “He would not tolerate laxity. He would show strength, distancing himself” (O’Brien 1190). ­­­­­­

In comparison, the hateful, dark tone of The Cask of Amontillado came out gleeful in a macabre sense that matched the setting of the underground chilly vaults where wine was kept amid the family tomes and stacked bones of the dead. My takeaway of the theme? Never trust someone you have wronged, especially if they are offering gifts and are overly cheerful. When Fortunado is told “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired beloved: you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed” (Poe, 1128) he should have run for the hills instead of going further into the depths of the vault. I’m kind of shaking my head at this one as Fortunado should have known better. I feel about as sorry for him as the woman in a horror show who goes down into the basement when she hears a noise.


Work Cited

O’Brien, Tim, “The Things They Carried.” Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 1177-1190

Poe, Edgar Allen, “The Cask of Amontillado.” Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 1126-1131


"The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien" by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0



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