The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

The first story is written in third person point of view. How does this serve to introduce the book?

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The first story is told in third person, with some insight into the mind of Jimmy Cross. This movement between perspectives is called free indirect discourse, and serves to distance the reader from the soldiers. The reader sees them as if they were in a movie, moving slowly across an unfamiliar landscape, carrying their various burdens. The ancient movement of men going to war is juxtaposed with the rough, modern language of the soldiers themselves. They use slang, swear at each other, and try to diffuse the feeling of danger and helplessness by describing death as being “zapped” or “torn up.”

Often dramatic narratives are driven by conflict -- frequently two characters butting heads. A war narrative needs none of these traditional sources of pressure because the war itself provides the conflict. O’Brien describes the atmosphere as tense at all times. The men know they might die at any moment. When the inevitable happens and a soldier is killed, extra tension stems from the fact that Cross knows he is responsible. Guilt becomes the most pervasive emotion of all.