The Things They Carried

by: Tim O’Brien

What Does the Ending Mean?

Summary What Does the Ending Mean?

The book ends with a story titled “The Lives of the Dead,” in which Tim remembers his childhood love, Linda, who died of cancer when she was 9. Tim says that in a story, he can “steal her soul. I can revive, at least briefly, that which is absolute and unchanging,” and bring Linda back to life. Tim realizes that this is what he has done for the other dead characters in the book, including Ted Lavender, Dave Jensen, Kiowa, and the dead young Vietnamese man. He has kept them alive by writing about them. “I’ll never die,” he writes. “I’m skimming across the surface of my own history…” Tim realizes that while he cannot live forever, he can save his own life by telling the story of what happened to him in Vietnam. Not only will he save others who have died by remembering them in his writing, the act of writing will save him, too.