The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried Questions Ch. 8

▪ Characterize Curt Lemon and why he behaves the way he does. How does this affect your reading of the previous chapter?

▪ How did Curt Lemon’s visit to the dentist affect him?

▪ What is the purpose of placing this chapter directly after “How to Tell a True War Story”?

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1) Lemon thrived on danger and took unnecessary risks. Through this, we see that his death was an act of foolish bravado. He threw his life away for a game.

2) Lemon liked to act the macho man and take unnecessary risks. He once went trick-o- treating in a Vietnamese village on Halloween, to the horror and amazement of the villagers.

O’Brien says that it is not a good idea to glorify the dead or become sentimental about them. He tells the story of Lemon’s visit to the dentist to illustrate the point. One day a dentist came in on a helicopter to check up on the men’s teeth. Lemon was so afraid that when it was his turn he passed out in the dentist’s chair. Later, he was so ashamed that he woke up the dentist in the middle of the night. After rousing him out of bed, Lemon insisted that he had a toothache, and forced the dentist to remove one of his perfectly good teeth.

3) Identifying varying methods of storytelling is also a way for O'Brien undercut his own narrative. One of the projects of the book is to put readers on guard against unreliable narrators. This is a deeply political agenda. O’Brien is angry with his generation of young men and women for not asking enough questions of authority figures. He blames them, at least partially, for being blindly led into the quagmire of Vietnam. He wants to teach his readers to do better: to ask questions, not to believe too easily.