The Things They Carried is an American literature by a renowned novelist, Tim O’Brien. It is a collection of twenty-two short stories with a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory and meditation. While writing The Things They Carried summary; you need to note that the stories are based on the author’s experiences during the Vietnam war while serving as a soldier in the US Army. Tim O’Brien the Things They Carried short story blurs between fact and fiction. For instance, The Things They Carried main characters’ names are those of real people.
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Being a collection of short stories, The Things They Carried plot is not linear. There is no beginning, body, or end like it would be for a typical novel. And if you are wondering ‘what is the theme of The Things They Carried,’ you might be surprised that the entire book does not restrict itself to a particular theme. It is a self-contained piece of work that is loyal to its themes.
This article provides a detailed “The Things They Carried” summary. Read through to get answers to ‘which war is Tim O’Brien’s short story “Ambush” based on?’, ‘how did Kiowa die in The Things They Carried’ and most importantly, learn what The Things They Carried summary should entail. You may want to outsource a professional to help you write Tim O Brien’s The Things They Carried summary. Feel free to do so by contacting us on our platform MyCourseBay at any time of the day.
The plot of The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried Plot starts by introducing the reader to O’Brien’s platoon leader, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. The story also talks about Cross’ infatuation with Martha, with whom he had had only one date. The story also chronicles soldier Ted Lavender’s death and the chronicle of what war men carried to war; the supplies, luck tokens and emotions. In short, the people named above are The Things They Carried Main Characters.
“Love” is a story that happens when the platoon leader Jimmy Cross meets with Tim O’Brien. This occurs long after the war has ended. The two talk about war experiences over a bottle of gin. They talk about Martha, where Cross confesses that he still loves her. He says that she had never married when he saw her after the war at a college reunion. Jimmy Cross asks Tim O’Brien to write a story where he portrays him as the best platoon leader, hoping that Martha will be impressed and come after him.
“Spin” story focuses on the unusual habits exhibited by platoon members. It is essential to mention this in Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried summary. Foremost, he notes how Mitchell Sanders sends his body lice to the draft board in his hometown. He also talks about Henry Dobbins and Norman Bowker playing checkers every night. Furthermore, O’Brien recalls Kiowa telling him that he killed the armed man on the path because he had no choice. O’Brien’s daughter, Kathleen, notes that he writes too many war stories and should stop. For O’Brien, writing stories is what he is left with when memories are gone.
“On the Rainy River” is another short story that needs to be mentioned in The Things They Carried plot summary. This story talks about Tim before going to Vietnam. He dodges the draft board by driving to Canada. He stops at Elroy Berdahl’s The Tip Top Lodge that is near the US and Canada border. He spends six days here trying to decide whether he should cross the border or not. Elroy offers to take him out on a boat a few yards from Canada. He makes up his mind to go to war as he fears embarrassing his family more than dying.
“Enemies” focuses on the recurring memory of Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk fighting over a jackknife. The brutal fight gets Strunk’s node broken, and he is taken for medical care. It is important to note in the The Things They Carried Tim O Brien summary that Jensen is worried about Lee’s return. He is paranoid that Lee may retaliate by killing him and hence isolates himself for a week. Tim O’Brien loses it and breaks his nose with a pistol. He asks Lee if they are “even,” and he agrees that they are.
“Friends”—The most thrilling and good from The Things They Carried summary is the friendship. This is well evident between Lee Strunk and Dave Jensen after their fight. O’Brien recalls that they started doing things together in pairs after the brutal battle. They even make a pact that states that if either of them is badly wounded in the war that he will be wheelchair-bound, the other is supposed to kill him. They consider this as an act of mercy.
Surprisingly, most of Strunk’s leg is blown off in the battle in the course of the month. However, he begs Dave not to kill him, and Dave agrees. Unfortunately, Strunk dies in the chopper while heading to the hospital.
“How to Tell a True War Story” is another story that is essential in writing The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien summary. The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien short story asserts that war stories do not have a moral. Often, these stories are not true, and if a story is true, one can tell from the kinds of words or questions that the story provokes. Tim O’Brien contends that war stories need not be factual because they do not convey historical truth but rather emotions of the experience. To illustrate this, O’Brien uses the story of Rat Kiley and another story of Mitchell Sanders.
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“The Dentist” in The Things They Carried by Tim O Brien summary focuses on the hyper-macho personae of Curt Lemon. He is reckless and enjoys combat. Lemon is, however, terrified of an army dentist—he faints in his attempt to visit the dentist. As an agony to his fear, he wakes up the dentist one night, forcing him to pull out one of his perfectly healthy teeth.
“Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” is a story about a Rat Kiley, a platoon medic telling O’Brien a story in an isolated station. The story is about a soldier, Mark Fossie, who sneaks his girlfriend, Mary Anne Bell, into his base by a helicopter. However, things do not go as planned. The girl gets fascinated with war and leaves Fossie to join the Green Berets in the combat. Rat Kiley, The Things They Carried song, Tra Bong tells the story of the two sweethearts.
“Stockings.” The summary of The Things They Carried is not complete without the story of the Stockings. Here, Henry Dobbins had a ritual where he would wrap his girlfriend’s stockings around his neck before dangerous missions. Henry continues to wear the stockings even after breaking up with his girlfriend because he thinks that the magic is still there. Initially, he is made fun of by the platoon, but later on, they start believing in the power of the stockings when they learn that Dobbins is never hurt, even in the deadly encounters.
“Church” is Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried short story that talks about how the platoon makes use of Buddhist pagoda as a living base during operations. Here, the soldiers interact with the two monks who like them all and love Henry Dobbins in particular. Kiowa, The Things They Carried main character is upset with the idea of using a religious place as a base. In The Things They Carried, Kiowa is seen as a religious person because he carries the New Testament everywhere. From the short story by Tim O’Brien, Kiowa attributes his religious behavior to his upbringing.
“The Man I Killed” summary revolves around O’Brien killing an armed man. He does this by throwing a grenade outside My Khe. From The Things They Carried, The Man I Killed is about O’Brien’s memories where he invents a history for the corpse. He imagines an alternative where he would not have killed the man, and he survives the war as a fighter. The Man I Killed, The Things They Carried short story sees Kiowa insisting that O’Brien stops staring at the corpse and talk to him.
“Ambush.” To start The Things They Carried summary on this story, you may first want to ask yourself, ‘which war is Tim O’Brien’s short story “Ambush” based on?’ In this short story, Kathleen asks his father, O’Brien, if he has ever killed anyone. He lies by saying he has not killed someone. However, O’Brien recounts the incident when he killed a young man outside My Khe and tells Kathleen the story. The memory haunts him, and he can still see the man walk down the path where he killed him.
“Style” story is about the platoon finding a village destroyed by bombs. The Things They Carried cliff notes discuss how a young Vietnamese girl is dancing in the charred remains of the village. The soldiers find the dead bodies of the girl’s family near the ruined house. The girl continues to dance, making the soldiers wonder if the dance is a ritual. After leaving the village, soldier Azar dances like the girl to mock her, something that sees Henry Dobbins threatening him if he does not “dance right.”
“Speaking of courage” is a story recounts a memory that happens after the war, the 4th of July. It follows Norman Bowker, O’Brien’s platoon mate. Norman spends time repeatedly driving around a lake, recalling Kiowa’s death. Kiowa’s leg got stuck in the mud, and after trying to pull him and failed, Bowker fled in fear. He feels that if he had pulled him, Kiowa would still be alive, and he would win the Silver Star. The story answers the question, “how did Kiowa die in The Things They Carried?”
“Notes” revolves around the short story, “Speaking of Courage.” Cliff notes The Things They Carried summary recounts when Norman Bowker sent him a long letter asking him to write a story about a man like him who felt like they died after the war. O’Brien agreed and wrote “Speaking of Courage” as the story. However, Bowker does not like how O’Brien distorts the story to fit his novel, The Things They Carried—it lacks truth about Kiowa’s death. Bowker commits suicide as he feels the story talks about his failure to save Kiowa.
“In the Field.” In the field, The Things They Carried short story is about the search to find Kiowa buried under mud in a mortar attack. The story focuses on the guilt Lieutenant Jimmy Cross feels to write a letter to Kiowa’s father to inform and give an answer to ‘how did Kiowa die in The Things They Carried?’ O’Brien also feels guilty about killing Kiowa when he used a flashlight in the dark, making the enemies detect Kiowa.
“Good Form,” The Things They Carried short story is about war stories that depict truth or fiction. Here, O’Brien writes about the different kinds of truth in war stories—happening-truth and story-truth. He claims that he would not be lying if he says that he killed the young man in My Khe and that he still would not be lying if he said he did not kill him. For war stories, conveying feelings is important than the truth.
“Field Trip,” The Things They Carried short story is about O’Brien taking Kathleen with him to Vietnam when she was ten years. In The Things They Carried summary, talk about the reason for the field trip in The Things They Carried. They visit the field where Kiowa died, and the field looks different than Kiowa remembers. He buries Kiowa’s moccasins, where he finds his rucksack.
“The Ghost Soldiers,” The Things They Carried short story, chronicles occasions when O’Brien was shot in Vietnam. Rat Kiley, the platoon medic, treated the first bullet. The second bullet nearly killed him as Bobby Jorgenson; the new medic froze when O’Brien was under fire. O’Brien decides to revenge, and he does so by trying to scare Jorgensen at night by pretending to be the enemy. Surprisingly, the new medic does not scare easily.
“Night Life” is a story that gives a second-hand account of the platoon medic Rat Kiley shooting his foot to escape the line of duty. The new regimen where the platoon was supposed to march at night looking for enemies and sleep during the day lead to Rat Kiley shooting his leg. The regime had affected the soldiers negatively, and Rat began to lose it hence shooting himself. The platoon leader Jimmy Cross knew that Rat shot himself on purpose. However, he knew that Rat Kiley was brave in the past and hence told other medics that the wound was due to an accident to be able to evacuate Kiley using a helicopter.
“The Lives of the Dead” story sees O’Brien compare his first wartime experiences with Linda’s death, his childhood sweetheart who died of a brain tumor at nine years. The SparkNotes, Things They Carried highlight that this was the first time O’Brien saw a dead body. In Tim O Brien The Things They Carried summary, acknowledge that the author still thinks of the people he lost in his life—Linda and the platoon mates. Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried summary ends by concluding that the dead still lives through memories. Actually, the stories keep them alive.
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Conclusion on “The Things They Carried” Summary
The Things They Carried summary is quite involving to write. The learner needs to master the writing skills as well as read the entire Tim O’Brien the Things They Carried novel to know what the book is all about. It can be hectic, especially when the student has other assignments to do besides writing The Things They Carried summary. While you may write the Tim O Brien The Things They Carried summary from cliff notes, you need to be aware that these summaries may lack what your instructor needs. For that reason, it is wise to ask for help from professionals. MyCourseBay is a recognized assignment help website that offers literature study guides at reasonable prices. Always feel free to contact us for any book summary.