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The Things They Carried

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Alisa Raj

on 9 June 2015

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Transcript of The Things They Carried

O’Brien received a letter from Bowker saying that he couldn’t find a meaningful use for his post-war life
O'Brien and Bowker had different post-war experience
Bowker suggested that O’Brien write a story about someone who felt that Vietnam robbed him of their life
listened to Bowker’s suggestion and began a chapter titled “Speaking of Courage.”
O’Brien sent a copy to Bowker, who was upset about the absence of Kiowa.
Eight months later Bowker hanged himself.
A decade later, O’Brien has revised the story, in which he included the night on the Song Tra Bong and the death of Kiowa
By: Alisa Raju, Mou Khan, Neesa Thomas and Eshita Verma
The Things They Carried
"Speaking of Courage"
In the Field
"Field Trip"
-Norman Bowker returns to Iowa from the war and his father is proud of his medals
-He reminisces about his former girlfriend Sally Kramer, who is now married, and his life prior to the war
-He recalls the death of Kiowa and how he couldn't save him
"Why tell this chapter as if Bowker has returned from war?
-To show the impact the war has had on his life
-Telling war stories brings back the emotional pain
-Bowker's way of dealing with survivor's guilt
-How Bowker recalls the death of his friend
"Why is he just circling the lake?"
-Bowker circles the lake because he feels lonely and his only escape is his memories
-Bowker also ponders on how to tell his father that he is not brave
-Bowker remembers how this one lake created the existence of this town
-Bowker also recalls his friend Max Arnold who drowned in the lake and compares this to the loss of his other friend Kiowa

"Why doesn't he feel like a hero even though he won 7 medals? How did he almost win the silver star?"
-Bowker won several medals but doesn't feel like a hero because he didn't receive the Silver Star Medal
-He almost won the Silver Star for valor
-He didn't receive the Silver Star because when the monsoon came in the Song Tra Bong River, Kiowa got stuck in muck and drowned. Bowker tried to save Kiowa but began drowning himself so he gave up.
-He believed that if it hadn't been for that darn smell, he would have won the medal
"What does the burger stand highlight?"
-The burger stand symbolizes the time Bowker and he other soldiers missed while they were at war
-The burger stand used to be simple but now it has intercoms for placing orders and Bowker cannot seem to comprehend how they work
Bowker Vs. O'Brien
-It represents the traditions of America but the modernization as well
-Ex. instead of saying beer, people now said "rootie-tootie"
At daybreak the platoon began combing through the field looking for Kiowas body
Although Lieutenant Cross didn't care about the war, but he felt that Kiowas death was his fault for camping on the riverbank
Jimmy Cross then writes a letter for Kiowas family, and reflects that he never wanted the respnsiblity of leadership in the first place
This chapter is told in third person point of view, but has the account for many characters including Bowker, Azar, Lietenant Cross and an unkown soldier

-Both Bowker and O'Brien handled post-war differently
After war, Bowker felt lost
He lived with his parents, had many short-lived jobs, and even joined a junior college (drop-out)
- Tim O'Brien on the other hand
easy shift from war to peace
had a smooth transition from Vietnam fighting to graduate school at Harvard University
His writing was a coping mechanism for him during war which helped him with this transition
-He doesn't understand the meaning of his life anymore and he feels guilty
"Looking out toward the river, he knew for a fact that he had made a mistake setting up here..He should've moved to a higher ground for the night, should've radioed in the false coordinates. There was nothing he could do now, but still it was a mistake and a hideous waste.He felt sick about it"
"When a man died, there had to be blame. Jmmy Cross understood this. You could blame the war. You could blame the idiots who had made the war. You could blame Kiowa for going to it. You could blame the rain. You could blame the river. You could blame the field, the mud, the climate"
Who is this unknown soldier?
'Billies picture, I had it all wrapped p. I had it in a platic , so itll be okay if i can...Last night we were looing at it, me and Kiowa. Right here. I know for sure its right here somewhere..."
The picture of this soldiers girlfriend got lost in the water and he claims many times that "its the only thing he got".
This shows how items from home have a symbolic importance to soldiers
Photographs from home represent a life elsewhere, far from the horrors of the war
The fact that the soldier is desparetely trying to find it proves that it is his form of cimmuncation with his life back at home
Why does this chapter make such an impact?
What was the point of this trip with Kathleen to the field where Kiowa died?

O'Brien, to relieve his everlasting guilt, he returned to the grounds at which Kiowa died.
The trip's purpose was to show Kathleen, O'Briens daughter, the maturing feeling of her fathers history.
Furthermore, O'brien entered the mucky river and released Kiowas old moccasins as form of tribute to his death

How do these two chapters tie into chapters 15, 17 and the whole book?
In chapter 15, Bowker circles around the lake and feels nostalgic of all the memories in his home town.
Chapter 17 shows how all the soldiers are hoping to survive the war and go home back to their loved ones.
Soldiers used to carry around items that reminded them of home such as photographs of their loved ones and other items that gave them hope of returning home
From the intense heat of war to all the fallen comrades, the sole depiction of returning home gave the soldiers the means of survival.
Notes shows O’Brien’s perspective on Bowker, with information that Bowker killed himself less than ten years after the war.

The information in Bowker’s letter lets us understand how he was affected by the war

By finishing the story in order to make it accurately convey his feelings about Vietnam and specifically about Norman Bowker and Kiowa, O’Brien makes peace with his memories of them.
Summary of "Field Trip"
For Kathleen's 10th birthday, O'Brien takes her to the site of Kiowa's death and he feels nostalgic when he thinks of how he lost his best friend and pride at that location. He describes how "this field had embodied all the waste that was Vietnam, all the vulgarity and horror." He then describes how the same scenery has become "flat and dreary and unremarkable." He illustrates his daughter's lack of interest of his past. Finally he shows tribute to Kiowa by giving him back his old moccasins at the site where he died.
Symbolic meaning of NOTES
The chapter of this story s called notes which represents O’Brien’s own search for style in storytelling than about the death itself.
, O’Brien makes peace with his memories of through his writing.
He writes in order to remember events from war in a way that is not painful.
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