The Things They Carried
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Discuss the idea of carrying in O’Brien’s work. What things are carried, and by whom?
2. Discuss the use of third-person narration in the work. Since most of the work is personal and written from a first-person perspective, what purpose does third-person narration serve? Why is the collection’s title phrased in the third-person plural?
3. What is the role of women in The Things They Carried?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. “The Man I Killed” is the only story that focuses primarily on a Vietnamese character. Why does this shift in focus occur in this particular story? Why are Vietnamese characters largely absent from the rest of the text?
2. Although the work is supposedly about the Vietnam war, the final story focuses not on the war but on an episode from O’Brien’s childhood. Discuss how this story relates to the stories of the war. What is O’Brien’s purpose in ending his collection of stories this way?
3. What do the terms “story-truth” and “happening-truth” mean in the context of the book? How do they differ?
4. Although The Things They Carried contains a story called “The Man I Killed,” it is unclear whether O’Brien actually killed anyone in Vietnam. What purpose does this ambiguity serve?
5. How does shame fit into O’Brien’s portrayal of the war experience?
6. Discuss the structure of the work. Do the stories progress in a linear manner? How does the work’s fragmented style contribute to the themes that run through the stories?
by TheDuckOffender, August 08, 2012
The secret O'Brien claimed to have kept may also have been depicted in that reoccurring emotional/fictional truth that we know oh so well from this story. Perhaps he even showed it in the first chapter, rather than telling it.
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by vickie12, September 04, 2012
What literary period was the things they carried written in?
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