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The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers
How do the soldiers cope with death during wartime?

O’Brien says that to cope with death, some soldiers “carried themselves with a sort of wistful resignation, others with pride or stiff soldierly discipline or good humor or macho zeal.” The soldiers also responded in ways that could seem insensitive but that helped them manage the harsh reality of killing during wartime. They told stories, made jokes, and used slang to describe death with words like “greased,” “offed,” “lit up,” and “zapped while zipping.” They also treated corpses like they were not people—kicking them or cutting off thumbs. All of the stories featured in The Things They Carried are O’Brien’s way of coping with his experience during wartime.