The Things They Carried

Guilt in The Things They Carried 12th Grade

In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien discusses the physical and emotional burdens that come along with war. The “things” that the soldiers carry are both literal and figurative. They carry sentimental items to remind them of home, food, weapons, survival gear, and even physical wounds. However, they also carry grief, longing, and terror. O’Brien focuses on the most prevalent of these emotions, guilt.

O’Brien, who is both the narrator and protagonist of the text, discusses his experiences in the Vietnam War. O’Brien uses his storytelling as comfort for dealing with his painful past and to mourn, “Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story” (246). He allows his fellow soldiers to be remembered by turning his memories into stories. In addition, by telling the stories, Tim overcomes some of his guilt. Tim is a pacifist, who when was first drafted, tries to talk himself out of going based on that fact that he opposed the war in college. He could think of no way to get out of the war as they would not let him go to graduate school and he could not fake an illness. He went to the Canadian border, thought about how “we make our choices or fail to make them” (60) and decided that running across the border was wrong, rationalizing...

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