The Things They Carried

by: Tim O’Brien

Tone

Main ideas Tone

The tone of The Things They Carried is non-judgmental and intimate. Violent and upsetting incidents are recounted straightforwardly, as well as the effects they had on the characters. The author refrains from strong emotion in the text, allowing the events and their effects alone to resonate with readers. The closeness of the narrator to the events creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the action, as though the reader is getting a privileged view of events only a few other people know about. O’Brien does not make an explicitly anti-war plea, nor does he strongly critique the actions of anyone but the character of Tim, his stand-in. His tone toward Tim is compassionate but regretful, as he considers the choices that Tim made in the context of the war. The stories also contain a sense of inquiry. O’Brien uses the stories to ask questions about the nature of war and what soldiers are expected to endure.