The Thing They Carried
The story starts off with American soldiers being overseas in the Vietnam war from 1968 to 1970. Many people forget that these soldiers are humans too, have families back home and hope to return home safe, sound. Numerous soldiers were said to be serving for their country because they felt the need, were obligated to go to war. Countless people forget that these soldiers give up everything, not knowing if they will ever return home, fear for their lives every single day. PTSD also plays a big role when going into the service. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien provides numerous themes and character development to show what really goes on behind doors with war and the impact it brings upon soldiers who serve for their country and what being away from home actually does to an individual.
The topic of PTSD is one that many people do not like to talk about or might assume is a controversial topic. PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, is anxiety or flashbacks triggered by a certain traumatic events from the past. Many Americans suffer from it when returning back home from serving in the war or being in a traumatic event. However, I believe it is an important topic for everyone to know, understand what going into war might do to a human being. According to PTSD Statistics up to” twenty percent of people go on to develop PTSD when serving in the war. As of today, this equates to approximately forty-four million people who were or are struggling with PTSD estimated eight percent of Americans twenty-four million people have this stress disorder at this given time” (PTSD statistics).
Going through such trauma may increase a person’s suicide risk. For example, there is evidence that youth abuse, sexual trauma will increase a person’s suicide endangerment. Along with other numerous soldiers, veterans, some studies have been found that combat trauma is related to suicide and while other studies have not. Battle injury survivors who are wounded more than once or put in the hospital for a wound might have the highest suicide risk. According to research it suggests that veterans with PTSD, or any other mental disorders are the strongest links to both suicide attempts and thinking about suicide because of having guilt, blameworthiness related to combat.
Many soldiers, veterans have very disturbing thoughts and extreme guilt tripped about actions taken during times of war, for example, killing innocent human beings because they did not if they were good or bad and did not want to take the chances. It’s their own or the other person’s life. These thoughts can often be overwhelming for soldiers, veterans and it makes it hard for them to deal with the intense feelings and might believe the only way out of these feelings is to end it all by committing suicide. A person can start to shut down, feel alone when they feel like nobody is there for them and might turn to finding a way to end all the pain they have endured over the years of serving in the war.
War has numerous consequences towards the health of a person, studies around the world have proven that these kind of situations increases the mortality rates, many other major diseases. War destroys many things for examples families, the relation soldiers have towards their nation. Serving in the war brings countless ramifications, consequences which include psychological, intellectual and physical harm to families, adults. Many of the troops who serve for our country end up homeless, in economic and community poverty. According to Homeless Veterans, numerous long-serving members are homeless in America between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night, this represents about one fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people (Homeless Veterans). This explains how three times the rate of veterans are struggling with immoderate rent fee overload, are at increased risk of homelessness and end up on the streets due to not having support from family, friends when returning back home for their tours.
Furthermore, this is a huge concern for the future of our country. Especially for women. men veterans and those with disabilities that include post-traumatic stress disorder and devastating brain injuries due to war. Also, they are more likely to become homeless, and this creates a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq war. This involves innumerable, sometimes even more of these characteristics or disabilities. Throughout the paper, it briefly explains the evidence, reality of war and the impact it does on a person, mental health of an individual. The act of killing demonstrates how those serving in the war become less human, commonly more known as killing machines and only killing to survive and be able to see their families back home.
The Things They Carried shows the true side of each, every character in the story, how they cope with being away from home, also never knowing if today or tomorrow is going to be their last day and the fear of death. For example, Jimmy Cross the lieutenant carries photographs, letters from a girl back home he left because he fears he will never see her or be pure when he comes back home. Rat who is commonly known as Bob Kiley carries around a bottle of brandy, comic books. Next, Kiowa holds tight on to his bible, cleaver that was given to him by someone who means the world to him which is his grandfather.
Tim O’Brien discusses each character in the story by describing each article they carried, what the significance means to them. These men carry the necessary objects they need to live on a daily basis, the minimum to make life as smooth as possible with the memories they hold. The objects they carry are tied to the different emotions, views from each individual character throughout the Vietnam war. The items each person carried had its value, were tangible objects, what most of them depended on. The central points in the story describe the experiences, emotions and the violent nature many of these soldiers had to go through. O’ Brien grabs his readers attention by going into detail with every little item mentioned in the story, creates a perfect barrier for his reader to understand the effects of war that might bring to someone’s life. He also goes into detail on how the pressure of being in war changes the way a person feels, see the world and also how war might completely change someone for the best or worst by showing the power of emotion. What they are capable of doing, achieving in life.
The items the soldiers carried are one of the few biggest burdens they had to carry on their backs while having other problems to worry about on top of dealing with physical, emotional barriers thrown at them every minute of the day. The memories they carried with them were the biggest burden they had to deal with and did not know how to live with having to fear everyday for their lives, friends around them. The novel consists of carrying items such as personal letters, shoes, misery, sadness, and shame. The morality, ethics of the soldiers slowly began to die deep down when they began to realize that they have put themselves in a situation to participate to execute in gruesome, random killing that is justified with the United States government and not having a say in it because they signed up for it.
These soldiers turned to killing, not thinking twice about it to express the frustration, the shame they have committed by joining to serve in the war. Also having to wait around just to die if they let their guard down or did not recognize who was the enemy or a friend. War turns people into worst careless human beings, these tactics of warfare were used in order to survive, be a couple steps ahead of their enemies and have better opportunities. Soldiers become dehumanized, just serve as killing machines, and do not think twice of their actions since they are used to making quick judgments. War might not determine or suggest who is right but mainly who is the only one left.
It is extremely important to understand the theme of war throughout the novel, war plays a huge role in today’s society. Many of the young people who go into war are barely entering adulthood, have not experienced their life to the fullest and have not done half of the activities or opportunities a person of their age would of have done. Some are said to have a love, hate relationship with war because as soon as they are overseas, fighting for their lives they soon realize war is nothing but fear, love and, detastation. Caring for each other, watching each others back was the only thing that was going to help them keep going, since they thought, felt the same way about fighting in the war. That was one of the few similarities they had in common to make it out alive, and not feel alone while being away from home. Those serving with you in war turn out to more than colleagues, more like a family who have your back no matter what and will be there to protect you at all cost.
O’Brien demonstrates the reality of serving in the war to the postmodernism society we live in today. The audience, the soldiers are challenged in numerous ways as we do not know just like the soldiers how each day will turn out. Allowing the audience to view the novel further than just the stories it has and dig deeper into the information given so the audience can relate, understand why each character acts the way they do throughout the novel. O’ Brien uses many styles, uses imagery to get his message across to his audience by explaining to his conscience of war, to make sure that the soldiers who did not make, will not to be forgotten by humankind and remembered as people who gave up their lives for their country and as superheros who did not stop fighting until their very last breath.
In conclusion, The Things They Carried provides numerous symbols, the significance of what really goes on behind doors when joining to serve in war, what it mentally and physically does to a human being. Throughout the novel we see a huge development, change in each individual and how each soldier had to rely on one another in order to survive, make it home safe and sound. Some soldiers were not lucky enough to make it out of there, O’Brien makes sure to mention them throughout the novel so the audience knows what they went through. Each character had to rely on someone in order to make it, for physical and emotional struggles the soldiers had. For example, having to fight their own demons, while having to protect and make sure no enemies got to them even though some of the soldiers were their own enemy. The things the soldiers carried shows a importance of the objects they carried physically as the trauma and memories.
The Thing They Carried