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The Things they Carried by Tim O'Brien

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Hayatt Yasin

on 31 October 2013

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Transcript of The Things they Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried-by Tim O'Brien
"The Ghost Soldiers"
Tone is the writer's attitude toward the material and/or readers
The time, place, physical details, and circumstances in which a situation occurs.
Anything that stands for something else
The term "ghost" is of importance to the soldiers. It is also repeated several times throughout the chapter. It symbolizes not only dying or being scared, but the hollowness O'Brien and the other soldiers felt during the war. O'Brien often used this term to describe how he felt when he was shot twice or scared overall.
Crystal Arbelaez
Hayatt Yasin

"Something had gone wrong. I'd come to this war a quiet, thoughtful sort of person, a college grad, Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, all the credentials, but after seven months in the bush I realized that those high, civilized trappings had somehow been crushed under the weight of the simple daily routine. I'd turn mean inside. Even a little cruel at times" (p.200).
At this point, after fighting the war for 7 months and being shot twice, Tim O'Brien makes the tone very clear. This quote reveals the tone to be remorseful, even bitter. O'Brien realizes he has changed, that he fought this war because he felt protecting his country and Vietnam was better than his own liberal thoughts/politics.
"We called the enemy ghosts. "Bad night," we'd say, "the ghosts are out." To get spooked, in the lingo, meant not only to get scared but to get killed. "Don't get spooked," we'd say. "Stay cool, stay alive." Or we'd say: "Careful, man, don't give up the ghost' " (p.202).
" You wait. Because the darkness squeezes you inside yourself, you get cut off from the outside world, the imagination takes over. That's basic psychology. I'd pulled enough night guard to know how the fear factor gets multiplied as you sit there hour after hour, nobody to talk to, nothing to do but stare into the big black hole at the center of your own sorry soul. The hours go by and you lose your gyroscope; your mind starts to roam. You think about dark closets, madmen, murderers under the bed, all those childhood fears" (p.204-205).
Here, Tim O'Brien shows the realism of waiting. He expresses how it engulfs ones' fears as they are waiting. Not only does he perceive this concept of an everyday life matter, but also from the perspective of a soldier. O'Brien is saying while you wait, especially at night for an enemy, your fears intensify, and the human mind lets go, essentially explaining how a ghost soldier is.
The struggle within or between characters.
"Jorgenson was no Rat Kiley. He was green and incompetent and scared. So when I got shot the second time, in the butt, along the Song Tra Bong, it took the son of a bitch almost ten minutes to work up the nerve to crawl over to me. By then I was gone with the pain. Later I found out I'd almost died of shock. Bobby Jorgenson didn't know about shock, or if he did, the fear made him forget. To make it worse, he bungled the patch job, and a couple of weeks later my ass started to rot away. You could actually peel off chunks of skin with your fingernail" (p.190).
Language that appeals to any sense or any combination of the sense
"...the stiff thump of the bullet like a fist, the way it knocks the air out of you and makes you cough, how the sound of the gunshot arrives about ten years later, and the dizzy feeling, the smell of yourself, the things you think about and say and do right afterword, the way your eyes focus on a tiny white pebble or a blade of grass and how you start thinking, Oh man, that's the last thing I'll ever see, that pebble, that blade of grass, which makes you want to cry" (p.191).
In this chapter, we learn that O’Brien has been shot twice. The first time Tim is shot, Rat Kiley, the medic, takes care of him, and Tim appreciates the treatment he got. However, a month later when Tim O’Brien recovers, he finds out that Rat Kiley has been injured and shipped off to Japan to recover, and the Alpha Company receives a new medic, Bobby Jorgenson. The second time O’Brien is shot; it takes Jorgenson ten minutes to tend to his wound, and ends up forgetting to treat for shock. Because Jorgenson was scared, he didn’t patch O’Brien’s wound up correctly, which in turn leads to his staying longer in the hospital. While O’Brien is recovering, he develops a deep hatred for Jorgenson, because he believed he almost died for no reason, and it was his entire fault. While O’Brien has to sleep on his stomach and apply ointment to his rear-end, he plans for his revenge. . A few weeks later, the company returns for standard operation, and O’Brien gets to see all his friends again, and listen to their stories. . After hearing this, O’Brien asks where Jorgenson is, but the other soldiers tell him to let it go. The other soldiers make him feel like he is no longer part of their crew, because he has been recovering for some time. The next morning, Jorgenson runs into O’Brien and tries to apologize. O’Brien, however, doesn’t accept it and walks away because he starts to feel guilty, which only makes him hate Jorgenson even more. . After this, O’Brien tries to get his friends to get Jorgenson back, but no one likes this idea but Azar. He plans to scare Jorgenson at night, so they set up flares and a sandbag. While they are planning to scare Jorgenson, O’Brien starts to get flashbacks of being shot, and continues with the plan. . They set off the flares, but Jorgenson doesn’t get scared, which makes Azar mad. Azar ends up kicking O’Brien in the head and calling him pathetic. O’Brien goes out to Jorgenson, and they apologize to each other while Jorgenson treats his head wound. They become friends and start joking, and joke about getting Azar back.

This quote shows the conflict between O'Brien and Jorgenson. Because Jorgenson is scared, he doesn't take care of O'Brien's wound very well. This incident causes conflict between the two throughout the whole chapter, to the point where O'Brien is planning revenge and thinking about his hatred for Jorgenson while he recovers.
Tim O'Brien goes into detail while he explains the feeling of being shot. He explains how it feels like it takes ages for the bullet to actually hit, and when it does, how he spaces out and how insignificant things become of significance to him. This quote is a perfect example of imagery because Tim O'Brien does such a well job of explaining how it feels to get shot, especially during war.
Natchez, Jon, and Sarah Robbins. "The Ghost Soldiers." The Things They Carried: Tim O'Brien. New York, NY: Spark Pub., 2003. 189-218.

"The Things They Carried." Shmoop. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.


The theme of the over-all story is physical and emotional burdens. Tim O'Brien not only described the material things they carried, but the emotional toll as well. Many soldiers were scarred for life both during and after the Vietnam War. Tim O'Brien shows us how they coped with such issues as he continues to describe how ghost-like Vietnam is at night, which in turn continues to further explain the title of our chapter, The Ghost Soldier. The title can be interpreted into many different ways. One being "a dead soldier", as one of O'Brien's friend passes away, and his near death from being shot as well. It can also mean the hollowness O'Brien feels, as he says he feels himself getting mean, and evil every day the war passes.
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