The Things They Carried: What’s “Real”?
There are instances when imaginary stories are more powerful than those that in fact happened. The imaginary truth present in O’Brien’s The important things They Carried includes more realism to his writing than any amount of real details every could. Although the stories stated in the book didn’t physically happen, they still hold as real as any real war story. Moreover, much of the characters and experiences discovered in these stories have been developed from composites of genuine individuals and locations. Basically, the stories are first-hand accounts of things that never occurred.
Tim O’Brien utilizes this fictional world to negate death, to highlight meaningful occasions and character characteristics, and to enhance the stories with feelings rather than accurate information. O’Brien often provides the idea that through writing, characters exist forever for all to see. Curt Lemon, Kiowa, Norman Bowker? every one of O’Brien’s fallen associates is able to survive on through his stories; their lives are “saved.” Linda, O’Brien’s deceased childhood sweetie, explains in “The Lives of the Dead” that being dead is like being a library book and waiting to be taken a look at (245 ).
Individuals are protected as they were in the past. O’Brien maintains himself as a child along with Linda, composing that “when I take a high leap into the dark and boil down thirty years later, I understand it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story” (246 ). This represents a desire to go back to the innocence of childhood: a time prior to war and death, loss and grief. O’Brien acknowledges the connection to childhood when he says “I’m forty-three years of ages, and a writer now, still dreaming Linda alive in exactly the exact same way” (245 ). Through his writing, he is able to keep Linda? long with himself? alive constantly, hence negating death. Each story in The important things They Carried includes fictional characters with genuine qualities, and fictional events with real morals. This technique is utilized to highlight the most crucial elements of both. Linda, as the reader understands her, never existed; she is an amalgamation, based upon an actual individual? or perhaps even several individuals (245 ). Through this process of thoroughly choosing the traits for each character, O’Brien is able to craft personas that stress the qualities essential to communicate his point. [Norman Bowker] did not freeze up or lose the Silver Star for valor. That part of the story is my own” (161 ). Although in truth this circumstance did not transpire with either guy, it is presented as a real portrayal of a soldier’s regret for losing an associate. O’Brien clearly clarifies that “true” war stories like those in his book are not about battling or violence. They’re not even about which side wins. “It’s about sunlight. It’s about the unique method the dawn expands on a river when you understand you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you hesitate to do.
It’s about love and memory. It has to do with sorrow” (85 ). True war stories have to do with communicating actual sensations experienced by soldiers. They serve to put the reader in the shoes of a soldier and experience the subtleties of war from a first-hand viewpoint. For these reasons, in some cases the true war stories that never took place are more real than any real Hollywood-style war story could ever be. Lots of readers will find themselves confused and frustrated after checking out “Excellent Form,” a chapter near completion of the book.
It is in this chapter that O’Brien exposes that the only element of the novel so far that hasn’t been made is the fact that he did walk through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier. “Almost whatever else is created” (179 ). Nevertheless, it should be comprehended that he is merely bending the truth in order to convey the most feeling and feeling. “I desire you to feel what I felt” (178 ), O’Brien discusses. Seemingly, there are times when invented war stories communicate his sensations more plainly than anything real could.
For example, “The Male I Eliminated” has to do with a VC soldier eliminated with a grenade by O’Brien. He is overcome by regret and remorse, however later on in the book he reveals that he did not eliminate the guy at all. He was just present at the time of the boy’s death. “But my existence was regret enough? I keep in mind feeling the problem of obligation and grief. I blamed myself” (178 ). He remembers feeling accountable and blaming himself, so he writes himself in as the one physically accountable for the death. It is far more effective to tell the story in this manner; readers xperience the guilt he felt despite the fact that he wasn’t really responsible. This is the sole function of O’Brien’s design? to communicate feelings in the most efficient and powerful way possible, without regard for reality. The imaginary truth that exists in The Things They Carried, though potentially frustrating for readers, assists to communicate O’Brien’s beliefs plainly. He is able to generate characteristics from various real people into one imaginary character that highlights the qualities he wishes to express.
He can alter real occasions in order to interact the method he was genuinely feeling at the time of Vietnam. These true war stories that never happened wind up becoming more real and effective than the real happenings of war. O’Brien’s other purpose in writing is to protect individuals and places he remembers. He can essentially deny death by making his characters live forever in composing? because, as Mitch Sanders states, “Death sucks” (243 ). Although Tim O’Brien’s design of writing has been understood to worsen some readers, in the end it makes for a real, poignant book? fiction or not.