The Things They Carried

Role of Kathleen and Linda in The Things They Carried

Throughout The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien often alludes to Kathleen, his daughter, and Linda, his childhood friend with cancer. However, Kathleen and Linda do not exist. O’Brien includes them in his story because they allow him to interact with the reader within the text without actually interacting with the reader personally. Kathleen represents the reader in the text, one who can interact with Tim O’Brien and alter the things he says. Linda, on the other hand, represents the way storytelling and memory can alleviate the pain in any traumatic situation in the past.

Kathleen appears in O’Brien’s stories many times, most notably in “Field Trip” where O’Brien takes Kathleen, his daughter to Vietnam on vacation. The difficulty of explaining his experiences in Vietnam to Kathleen is evident in the frustration of his tone when he says, “At the same time, however, she’d seemed a bit puzzled. The war was as remote to her as dinosaurs and cavemen.” (183) If Kathleen represents the reader, this suggests that O’Brien believes we are similarly out of touch, requiring explanation for everything he says and does. This idea of Kathleen as the reader is evident in this exchange: “Kathleen sighed. ‘Well I don’t get it. I mean, how come...

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