In the unique The Things They Brought, author Tim O’Brien shows lots of concepts about war, survival, corruption, and powerlessness through his collection of short stories. Throughout his book, O’Brien explains numerous incidents that occur merely due to the fact that of possibility and luck. In these narratives, O’Brien teaches that it is difficult to generalize about war. In a dark irony, war is dreadful however is not always dreadful because war corrupts soldiers, however at the same time makes the soldiers feel alive. One central concept that O’Brien discusses that soldiers are helpless over their own survival in the face of war, and that the fate of a soldier is down to possibility and luck.
This theme of survival based on luck is shown a number of times throughout the unique, in instances where a soldier’s survival was simply dependent on opportunity and luck. In one particular story, O’Brien writes about a soldier who never was hurt: “Dobbins was invulnerable. Never ever wounded, never ever a scratch. In August, he tripped a Bouncing Betty [a landmine], which stopped working to detonate. A week later on he got caught in the open during an intense little firefight, no cover at all, he just breathed deep and let the magic do its work” (O’Brien 112). O’Brien discusses a soldier called Henry Dobbins who survived without any injury purely since of opportunity. When Curt Lemon actions on the landmine, he passes away, but when Dobbins actions on a landmine, it stops working to take off. Neither of these men did anything various, and yet one lives and one passes away, exposing the popular theme of opportunity in the book.
Another scene in which the theme of chance is clear happens after Kiowa’s death: “You could blame the war. You could blame the idiots who made the war. You could blame Kiowa for going to it. You could blame the rain. You could blame the field, the mud, the environment … You could blame the munitions makers or Karl Marx of a trick of fate or an old male in Omaha who forgot to vote.” (O’Brien 169-170). After Kiowa’s death, O’Brien describes all the things one might blame for his death. The fact that it is possible to blame numerous things for Kiowa’s death shows that numerous aspects had to exist for Kiowa’s death. If simply a few of these factors had been changed, it is very well possible that Kiowa would have survived the war. Subsequently, Kiowa’s death was based purely on chance due to the fact that the existence of much of these elements is based upon possibility.
A lot of O’Brien’s stories associate with the overall style of the powerlessness of a soldier in war. A soldier’s life depends on chance and luck to the point where the soldiers have little to no say in whether they live or die. This concept is present in Jimmy Cross’s ideas after Kiowa’s death: “In his head he [Jimmy Cross] was modifying the letter to Kiowa’s daddy. Impersonal this time. An officer expressing an officer’s acknowledgements. No apologies were essential, due to the fact that it [Kiowa’s death] was among those freak things, and the war was full of freaks, and absolutely nothing might ever alter it anyway.” (O’Brien 169). Kiowa’s fate was simply based upon possibility. In order for Kiowa to have died, a couple of things must have happened. First, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross needed to make the error of following his superiors instead of his own instinct. Second, the location they selected had to be the village toilet, in low ground and susceptible to opponent fire. Third, it had to have actually been Kiowa who died. These chance aspects demonstrate how Kiowa’s death was simply an outcome of a few random happenings. Had among these aspects not took place, Kiowa might have endured the war.
O’Brien’s description of the heavy mortar rounds hammering the blind and baffled squad in the dark display screens that it could have been any of the soldiers who passed away. This theme is present every time O’Brien discusses fellow soldiers dying; in reality, this idea is present whenever O’Brien recounts the dullness the soldier’s felt during parts of the war, and is utilized thoroughly throughout the book. O’Brien also establishes that the soldier’s comprehended their own powerlessness over their survival. “Even in the deep bush [forest], where you could pass away any number of methods, the war was nakedly and aggressively boring.” (O’Brien 27-28). By stating that the war was boring, even with the reality that one could pass away “any variety of methods,” these soldiers are tired, rather than nervous or anxious, since they recognize that their survival is purely down to luck. All of these occasions associate with the overall style of the powerlessness of a soldier over a soldier’s own fate in a war, due to the fact that the life of a soldier is simply based upon chance.