The Things They Carried

The story's tone in "The Things They Carried" is often flat and emotionless. Give some examples.

Why do you think the narrator adopts this kind of tone?

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

"O’Brien recounts the dramatic events of “Night Life” with a flat, matter-of-fact tone. Kiley’s struggle represents the fall-out of the vital importance attached to “courage” throughout the book. He does what all the men wish they could do, but none dare try. More to the point, he does what the other men consider cowardly but are too cowardly to undertake themselves. In this sense, Rat Kiley fits comfortably into neither normal literary role: he is neither hero nor anti-hero. According to the rules governing war and soldiers he has “failed.” But he wasn’t enough of a moralist to avoid going to war altogether, which would have made him a hero within O’Brien’s moral parameters.

The matter-of-fact language with which O’Brien recounts the events of “Night Life" creates distance. The reader is left to imagine whether O’Brien is sympathetic to his friend’s decision. Like so many other emotions in the book, the narrator does not explore this one outright. Detachment and simple language are key, and show the influence of Ernest Hemingway."