• The Things They Carried  

    By Tim O'Brien

    Tim O'Brien, born in 1946, was drafted and served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970 as a Sergeant. He is a writer. When he returned from Vietnam he began to write magazine articles about the war and eventually wrote several novels about the Vietnam War, soldiers and veterans. His novel The Things They Carried  is recognized as the finest book for families of soliders to read so that they may better understand what it means to serve in the military during war time. 

     Topic

    The Vietnam War

    Dedication

    The novel is dedicated to the real soldiers in Alpha Company who served with Tim O’Brien during the Vietnam War—Kiowa, Jimmy Cross, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, and Rat Kiley. 

    Genre

    Historical Fiction          Semi-autobiographical

    Setting

    The 1960’s-1970’s during the Vietnam War

    Themes

    The Burdens of War: physical, emotional, psychological and mental

    The Horrors of War

    Quotes About theTheme

    “they carried like freight trains; they carried it on their backs and shoulders—and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry” (O’Brien, 16).

    “They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing”(O’Brien, 21).

    “they carried shameful memories.”(O’Brien, 21).

    “they carried the common secret of cowardice.. the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down.” (O’Brien, 21)

     

    Quick Character Descriptions-(alphabetically with chapters)

    Azar ("Spin" and "Style")

    Young soldier, Rude and crude. Appears to enjoy the war. Uses gallows humor to survive. 

    Mary Anne Bell ("Sweet Heart of the SongTra Bong")

    Mark Fossie's girlfriend to visit her boyfriend. A symbol of the innocence lost by all young soldiers

    Elry Berdahl ("On the Rainy River")

    Father figure for Tim O'Brien. Helps Tim with his struggle to go to war when he recieves his draft notice. 

    Norman Bowker ("Speaking of Courage" and "Note" and "In the Field")

    Survives the war. Burden of survivor's guilt. Bowker commits suicide.

    Lt. Jimmy Cross ("Love" and "In the Field")

    Leader of Alpha Company. Incompetent. College graduate ROTC. Not ready to lead the men. Burden of responsibilty. Cross fantasizes about Martha when he should be focused on leading Alpha Company. 

    Eddie Diamond ("Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong)

    Highest ranking medic at the Tra Bong Aid Station. Copes with his emotinal burdens with narcotics. 

    Henry Dobbins ("Stockings" and "Church")

    Big guy. Symbolizes America. Machine gunner. Burden of superstition.

    Mark Fossie ("Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong")

    A medic. Brings his girlfriend to Vietnam for vacation. Burden of guilt.

    The Greenies ("Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong")

    Green Beret company stationed with medics. Part of Special Forces. Burden of responisbility and proctection.

    Dave Jensen ("Friends" and "Enemies")

    Symbolizes the intense brotherhood of soldiers. War time promise "wheelchair injury" 

    Lee Strunk ("Friends" and "Enemies")

    Symbolizes the intense brotherhood of soldiers. War time promise "wheelchair injury" 

    Bobby Jorgensen ("Ghost Soldiers")

    Medic who replaces Rat Kiley. Disliked by Tim O'Brien because he is young and inexperienced. The FNG, f***ing new guy. 

    Kathleen ("Field Trip")

    Tim O'Brien's daughter. Accompanies Tim to visit Vietnam. Doesn't understand why her father cannot forget the war. 

    Rat "Bob" Kiley ("Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" and "Night Life" and "How to Tell a True War Story")

    Medic for Alpha Company. Burden to keep the soldier's alive. Saves lives. Closest friend Curt Lemon. Tortures a water buffalo. Shoots himself in the foot to escape the war. 

    Kiowa ("In the Field")

    Tim's closest friend. Religious. A Native American. Dies a meaningless death. Symbolizes the wastefulness of war. 

    Ted Lavender ("The Things They Carried")

    Young soldier. Burden of fear. Copes with war by taking drugs. Killed by a sniper's bullet while taking a pee.

    Curt Lemon ("How to Tell a True War Story" and "The Dentist)

    Brave and fearless. Crazy stunts. Killed when he steps on a landmine playing catch. Rat Kiley's closest friend. 

    Linda ("The Lives of the Dead") 

    A childhood friend of Tim O'Brien. Died as a child from, a brain tumor. At her funeral, first dead body Tim ever saw. 

    Martha ("Love") 

    Lt. Jimmy Cross' love interest. Jimmy Cross obesses ovdr Martha. 

    North Vietnamese Soldier ("The Man I Killed" and "Ambush")

    Soldier killed by Tim. O'Brien invents an entire fictional life for this man. Tim cannot forget this man. Haunts Tim's dreams. 

    Tim O'Brien ("The Man I Killed" and "Ambush" and "Good Form")

    Author, narrator. Burden, his memories and dreams and guilt.  Cannot forget the war. 

    Mitchell Sanders ("How to Tell a True War Story")

    The radio operator. Occasional or alternate narrator. Tells stories about war experiences, not morals or lessons.

    Young Soldier ("In the Shit Field")

    Represent shock and naivete. Ignores Kiowa's death due to shock. Focused on finding a picure of his girlfirend. 

    Chapter Summaries

     "The Things They Carried"-Pages 1-25

    Originally a short story O'Brien wrote for a magazine article.

    Tim O'Brien writes about the equipment and person items soldier's physically carry or "hump" during the war. He writes about the soldier's physical, emotinal and mental burdens. 

    Lt. Jimmy Cross is distracted, thinking about home and Martha and burdened by the responsibilites on being a leader. 

    PFC Lavender is scared. He carries drugs to cope. Lavender is killed by a sniper while taking a pee.  

    Jimmy Cross is feels guilty. Burns Martha's letters and picture. 

    "Love"-Pages 26-29

    Years after the war.

    Jimmy Cross visits Tim. They drink, get drunk and talk about Martha.

    Jimmy Cross reunited with Martha at a college reunion. Still obsessed with Martha. She gives Cross another picture.

    Marthan is a Lutheran missionary. Never married. Doesn't understand men. Rejects Jimmy Cross again. Victim of sexual abuse? Perhaps, Martha is gay?

    "Spin"-Pages 30-36

    A chapter of disconnected stories about the war and the main characters. 

    War can be sweet and war can be violent.

    Horrific acts of violence and random acts of kindness. 

    Azar gives a little boy candy, then shoots a dog.

    Sanders mails home an envelope of dead lice.

    Dobbins and Bowker play checkers.

    The soldiers have affection for a "poppa-san"

    Kiowa teaches the soldiers a rain dance.

    Lavender goes too heavy on the drugs.

    Curt Lemon is killed when he steps on a landmine.

    "On the Rainy River" Pages 37-58

    Tim graduates from college and gets his draft notice.

    He thinks "he is too good to go to war"

    Tim works in a meat processing plany during the summer.

    He is pressured by family and his community to go to war. 

    Tim considers running away to Canada and becoming "a draft dodger"

    Tim spends 6 days near the Canadian border at the Tip Top Lodge (a fishing lodge) wiht a fishing guide named Elroy Berdahl. 

    Elroy knows why Tim is "vacationing" on fishing river near Canada.

    Elroy takes Tim fishing on the river and turns his back when Tim is just 20 yards away from the Canadian border. Elroy gives Tim the chance to run away.

    Ultimately, Tim goes to war because he is too embarassed not to.

    "Enemies and Friends"Pages 59-61

     Jensen and Strunk are enemies. They get in a fistfight about Jensen missing knife. Jensen accuses Strunk of stealing the knife.

    Jensen breaks Strunk's nose. Then Jensen gets PARANOID that Strunk will retaliate and hurt him. Out of paranoia Strunk breaks his own nose and calls them even.

     Jensen and Strunk become best friends and trust each other, They promise to kill each other if they ever receive a "wheelchair" injury to end the misery of being an amputee.

    Months later, Strunk's leg is blown off by a mortar round. Jensen stays by his friend. However Strunk begs Jensen not to kill him.

    Strunk is loaded on a chopper. He dies on the way to the hospital. Jensen is relieved of the burden of his promise and relieved that his friend Strunk has died. 

    "How to Tell a True War Story"-Pages 64-81

    This chapter is NOT a war story. It is a LOVE story, about the special bond and love soldiers feel towards one another. 

    Tim O'Brien struggles to explain war stories. War is Hell, but also boredom, friendships, love and many other things.

    Never believe all war stories, especially if they are moral, because war is immoral.

    O'Brien writes that the some of the truest war stories never really happened. 

    Curt Lemon dies when he steps on a landmine while playing hot potato with a smoke grenade. Lemon ascends into the sunlight. It looked beautiful.

    Rat Kiley has lost his best friend. 

    He writes a letter to Curt Lemon's sister. She never responds, which angers Rat Kiley. 

    Ironically, Rat Kiley, a medic, a healer, who relieves wounded soldiers pain, repeatedly shoots and wounds a baby water buffalo. He shoots to wound and torture, not to kill.

    Rat causes the baby water buffalo as much pain as he can. 

    "The Dentist" Pages 82-84

    During war, sometimes physical pain is easier to endure than emotional or mental pain.

    Another story about Curt Lemon who was a prankster, a comic and filled with bravado.

    A field dentist visits Alpha Comapany, Lemon is afraid of dentists and faints when it is his turn for an exam.

    Curt Lemon is so embarassed from fainiting due to fear he goes back to the dentist and insists the dentist pull out a perfectly good tooth to prove he is not a coward.

    Ironically, Curt Lemon is scared of a harmless visit to the dentist, but not afraid of playing with a grenade. 

    "The Swetheart of the Song Tra Bong"-Pages 85-110

    A story told by Rat Kiley. Rat Kiley is known to exaggerate and lie when he tells a story.

    Rat is stationed at a First Aid Station in Chu Lai near the Song Tra Bong (a river). A relatively safe area.

    One day, Eddie Diamond, makes a joke that is so safe, that they could bring a girl to camp.

    Mark Fossie devises a way to bring his young and innocent girlfriend Mary Anne Bell to Vietnam. 

    Mary Anne is curious and a fast learner. She learns to speak Vietnamese, to cook Vietnamese food, to help in the hospital and to fire a gun.

    Mary Anne and mark Fossie are in love and get engaged.

    When Mark Fossie insisits it is time for Mary Anne to go back to the US, she disappears into the jungle with the Green Berets.

    As Mark Fossie goes crazy with worry, Mary Anne returns to camp. She wears a neclace of human tongues around her neck, She has become a stone cold killer.

    Rat Kiley gets transferred and does not know what happened to Mary Anne.

    Eddie Daimond says that Mary Anne crossed to the "other side" (evil) and has become part of the land of Vietnam. 

    Mary Anne is a symbol of the LOSS OF INNOCENCE of all the young men who come to war as innocent young adults and become soldiers and killers. 

    "Stockings"- Pages 111-112

    Dobbins, the machine gunner, carried his girlfriend’s panty hose around his neck. They kept him safe and made him invincible. He was never hurt in Vietnam, not even a scratch.  

    The irony that some soldiers will die and some soldiers will never even be injured in war.

    "Church"-Pages 113-117

    Alpha Company sets up camp near an abandoned pagoda (church) with monks.

    The monks seem to like the soldiers. They oil and clean Dobbins' machine gun.

    Dobbins thinks he might like to be a monk some day because he would look good in the robes and get to be nice to peole. 

    Kiowa, who is religious, is upset that the soldiers are using a religious site as a camp. 

    Ironically, American soldiers committed many violent and atrocious acts during the war like using a pagoda (church) as a camp and killing innocent people. 

    "The Man I Killed"- Pages 118-124

    Tim O'Brien is the narrator and main character of this chapter.

    Tim kills a young enemy soldier with a grenade. Tim doesn't think. His body instintually reacts and he throws the grenade.

    Is this Tim's first kill? Tim sees an enemy soldier he has killed up close and persona;.

    Tim is paralyzed by his guilt.

    He imagines a fictional past and future life for the soldier. This solider will haunt Tim's dreams for the rest of his life.

    Kiowa, Tim's closest friend, explains to Tim it wasn't his fault. this is war. The young enenmy soldier would have done the same thing. 

    "Ambush"-Pages 125-128

    When Tim's daughter, Kathleen, asks him if he ever killed anyone in the war, Tim has another flashback to killing the yong soldier.

    Tim is filled with guilt. He has convinced himself that if he did not throw the grenade the yong soldier would have harmlessly walked by Tim.

    Twenty years after the war, Tim still sees the young enemy soldier at random times throughout his day and life. 

    "Style"-Pages 129-130

    The soldiers of Alpha Company have utterly destroyed a Vietnamese village, killing almost everyone.

    A young girl survives. She dances through the detroyed village honoring the dead.

    Azar mocks the girls dance.

    Dobbins is so upset when Azar maked fun of the girl he threatens to dump Azar in a well. 

    Azar has completely lost his morality.

    Despite destroying the village, Dobbins has NOT lost all his humanity and morality.

    "Speaking of Courage"-Pages 131-148

    The story of how Kiowa died in a shit field in Vietnam. Norman Bowker saw Kiowa sinking in the muck but was unable to save Kiowa because the smell of sewage was too much. He blames himself for being a coward, not saving Kiowa and losing his chance to earn a silver Star.

    Norman Bowker came home from Vietnam with 7 medals, including a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. 

    After the war, Norman Bowker has returned to his hometown in Iowa. It is the Fourth of July weekend and Norman spends his time driving around in the lake in his town. Aimlessly driving around in circles. Norman has nowhere to go and feels he has no one to talk to about the night Kiowa died.

    He cannot talk to his childhood friend Max, who drowned in the lake.

    Norman cannot talk to his high school girlfiend, Sally, who has moved with her life and gotten married. 

    Norman wishes he could talk to his father about Kiowa's death, but his father fought his own war and is busy watching baseball.

    Bowker considers unburdening himself at the local burger joint talking to a teenage stranger through a speaker.

    Norman drives around the lake 11 times. 

    Finally, Bowker walks into the lake, submerging himself in the water (a return to the shit field where Kiowa died?) (is Kiowa going to kill himself?)

    Norman emreges from the lake and watches the fieworks (mortar fire from the shit field?)

    "Notes"-Pages 149-154

    Second story about Kiowa's death in the flooded sewage field near the Song Tra Bong.

    Bowker wrote a 17 page letter to Tim about Kiowa's death.

    O'Brien reveals that after the war Bowker returned to Iowa, worked meaningless jobs, went to community college but drop out.

    Eventually, Norman Bowker hanged himself in the locker room of the YMCA after playing basketball.

    "In the Field"-Pages 155-170

    Third story about Kiowa's death told from the point of view of Bowker, a young soldeir and Jimmy Cross. 

    The morning after Kiowa has died in the field. Alpha Company spends the day searching to Kiowa's body which has sunk into the mud and sewage near the flooded Song Tra Bong. 

    Azar, makes jokes.

    Jimmy Cross thinks about writing a letter to Kiowa's family, accepting responsibilty for his death. Thinking about who is to blame and playing golf. 

    Mitchell Sanders finds Kiowa's rucksack, he blames Lt Cross for Kiowa's death.

    The "FNG". A young soldier turned on his flashlight. Gave away Alpha Company's position, mortar attck ensues. Kiowa dies. The yong soldier blames himself for being unable to save Kiowa, but is in shock now and just wants to find his missing picture of his girlfriend.

    The men finally find Kiowa's body. They call for a chopper to retrieve the body. 

    The men are relieved. 

    "Good Form"-Pages 171-172

    Truth vs Facts vs Feelings

    Another story about the enemy soldier Tim killed. 

    Tim, the reliable narrator, tells the audience he made the whole story up.

    Tim maintains that the feelings and emotions of stories are more important than the facts. 

    "Field Trip"-Pages 173-179

    O'Brien returns to Vietnam with his 10-year old daughter Kathleen to the scene of Kiowa's death. Kathleen is bored.

    The area looks very different. Tim is disappiinted and shocked that this field that killed his best friend and swallowed up a part of Tim's life looks harmless.

    After taking a swim in the river, Tim leaves Kiowa's moccasins near the spot where Kiowa died. 

    "The Ghost Soldiers"-180-207

    Rat Kiley vs Bobby Jorgensen

    Tim tells the readers about the two times he was shot.

    Rat Kiley fixes Tim's wounds the first time. Rat was competent. The best medic.

    The second time Tim is shot the new medic Bobby Jorgensen does an awful job causing Tim pain and an infection. Tim nearly dies.

    Tim vows to get revenge on Bobby Jorgensen and gets Azar to help him make Bobby Jorgensen pay.

    At the end of the chapter, O'Brien and Jorgensen reconcile, shake hands and say they are even.

    "Night Life"-Pages 208-212

     This chapter is told to O'Brien by Mitchell Sanders. Tim has been injured and is at a field hospital.

    This chapter is about the mental anguish of war.

    Rat Kiley chooses the shame of being a coward and chooses to shoot himself in the foot rather than being killed or killing others. 

    In this chapter, Rat Kiley slowly goes crazy. He stops talking. He feels bugs crawling over his skin and cannot stop scratching. Rat says he is not cut out to be a medic always picking up the body parts and plugging the holes. He is haunted by Lavender and Lemon's deths. Rat Kiley has horrofic nightmares.

    Rat Kiley wakes up one morning and takes morphine and shoots himself in the toe, an injury that will get him sent home from the war. No one blames Rat.

    Lt. Cross promises to vouch for Rat Kiley and say the injury is a war wound. 

    "The Lives of the Dead"-Pages 233

    O'Brien explains that remembering stories can keep dead soldiers alive.

    Tim remembers his first battle in the war and seeing a dead old man.

    He remembers Ted Lavender's and Curt Lemon's deaths.

    He thinks about Kiowa's death drowning in the mud. 

    Tim remembers a childhood friend, Linda, who died of a brain tumor and his first visit to a funeral parlor and seeing her dead body.

    Tim keeps Linda alive by remembering her.

    Tim's stories in The Things They Carried keep the dead alive. 

    Characters: Burdens, Summaries and Quotes

    Norman Bowker

    Burdens

    Regret and Survivor's Guilt

    Believes he is a Coward

    Carried
    Diary-tells the reader he is sensitive
    Thumb from a dead soldier
    7 medals-Including A Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman's Badge

    Chapters: "Speaking of Courage and "Notes" Summary

    Norman goes home and he has no one to talk to, his life is going no where. He drives around in circles around the lake. He is depressed and lonely. Norman tells the story of Kiowa's death. Kiowa drowned in a shitfield in Vietnam. Norman feels guilty. He almost saved Kiowa. Norman let go of Kiowa's boot. Norman Bowker committed suicide 3 years after the war. He hung himself at the YMCA.

    Quotes

    "Norman Bowker, otherwise a very gentle person, carried a thumb that had been presented to him as a gift from Mitchell Sanders." (O'Brien, 12).

    “he could not bring himself to be uncommonly brave.” (page 141)

    “he would have talked about the medal he did not win and why he did not win it.” (page 141)

    “I almost won the Silver Star.” (page 141)

    “a story about a guy who feels like he got zapped over there in that shithole. A guy who can’t get his act together and just drives around town all day and can’t think of a damn place to go and doesn’t know how to ge there anyway.” (page 157)

    “That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of sank down into the sewage with him…Feels like I’m still in deep shit. (page 156)

    “he had been braver than he had ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be.” (page 152)

    “he’d backed off and in that way had lost the Silver Star.” (page 152)

    “Kiowa slipped away that night beneath the dark swampy field. He was folded in with the war; he was part of the waste.” (page 152)

    Lt. Jimmy Cross and Martha

    Burdens

    Blame and Guilt for Ted Lavender's death/Kiowa's death

    Love for Martha

    Responsibilty as the Leader for the soldier's lives and deaths

    Carried

    Maps, compass, strobe light, .45 calipber pistol, code books

    Letters, Photos and a pebble from Martha

    Summary: Chapters-“Love” and “The Things They Carried”

     Lt. Jimmy Cross is young and unprepared to be a leader. Incompetent. He feels responsible for the lives of his men and blames himself for Ted Lavender’s and Kiowa’s deaths during the war.

     Quotes

    “Lavender was dead. You couldn’t burn the blame.” (Page 23)

     “he’d never forgiven himself for Lavender’s death. It was something that would never go away.” (Page 27)

     “When a man died, there had to be blame. Jimmy Cross understood this.” (Page 177)

     "He felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war.” (Page 16)

    Henry Dobbins

    Burdens

    Superstitious

    Carried

     Panty hose-Good Luck Charm

    Machine gun and heavy ammo

    Peaches

    Summary:  Chapters-“Stockings" and "Church"

    Dobbins, the machine gunner, carried his girlfriend’s panty hose around his neck. They kept him safe and made him invincible. He was never hurt in Vietnam, not even a scratch.  

    Henry and the platoon spend a week camped out in a pagoda. Henry and Kiowa talk about religion. The Buddhist monks at the pagoda like Dobbins. Kiowa is religious, he thinks it is wrong to camp in the pagaoda. Dobbins is NOT religious, but he likes to be nice to people. 

     Quotes

    "In many ways, he was like America itself, big and strong and full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you neede him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor." (Page 117)

     "It was his one eccentricity. The pantyhose, he said had the properties of a good luck charm.”(Page 117)

     “the stockings were a talisman for him. They kept him safe.” (Page 118)

     “He believed firmly and absolutely in the protective power of the stockings. They were like body armor.” (Page 118)


    "I'd look spiffy in those robes they wear--just like Friar Tuck. Maybe I'll do it. Find a monastery somewhere. Wear a robe and be nice to people."

     Mark Fossie and Mary Ann Belle

     Mark Fossie Burdens

    Lost his innocent girlfriend

    Lost his future

    Lost his mind

    Summary Chapter: “The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong”

    Mary Ann comes to visit her boyfriend Mark Fossie in Vietnam. Falls in love with killing, becomes an adrenaline junkie and killing machine. Disappears into the jungle.

     Quotes-Mark Fossie

     “I can’t just let her go…Man, you must be deaf. She’s already gone.”

     Mary Ann Bell Burdens

    Loss of Innocence

    Lost herself

    Addicted to Vietnam and the War

    Becomes a Killer

    Blood on her Hands

     Quotes-Mary Ann

    “A real tiger. D-cup guts, trainer bra brains.” (page 97)

     “In a sense she never returned. Not entirely, not all of her.” (page 105)

    "What happened to her was what happened to all of them. You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterwards it's never the same. A question of degree. Some make it intact, some don't make it at all" (114).

     “She had crossed to the other side. She was part of the land. She was wearing her culottes, her pink sweater, and a necklace of human tongues. She was dangerous. She was ready for the kill. (page 116)

    Rat Kiley

    Burdens

    Anger, Grief and pain from the death of his best friend Curt Lemon

    Responsibilty for saving wounded soldiers 

    Nightmares/hallucinations (bugs, dead bodies and body parts)

    Carried

    Canvas bag of medical supplies

    M&M's 

    Summary: “How to Tell a True War Story”

    Best friend Curt Lemon is killed stepping on a land mine while playing catch with a grenade. Rat writes a letter to Curt’s sister. Tortures a water buffalo, shoots off body parts.

    Quotes

    “It wasn’t to kill; it was to hurt.” (page 79)

    “I’ll picture Rat Kiley’s face, his grief.” (page 85)

    “Curt Lemom was dead. Rat Kiley lost his best friend in the world.” (page 79)

    “It wasn’t a war story. It was a love story.” (page 85)

    Chapter-“Night Life”

    Rat goes crazy from the stress of war. Can’t sleep. Sees bugs crawling all over his body. Shoots himself in the foot.

    Quotes

    “the days aren’t so bad, but at night the pictures get to be a bitch…I keep seeing myself dead. (page 223)

    “the pictures in my head, they won’t quit.” (page 222)

    “Rat just sank inside himself.” (page 220)

    “he lost his cool.” (page 219)

    “The strain was too much for him.” (page 219)

    “He’d done his best…he tried to be a decent medic…win some, lose some… he tried hard.” (page 223)

    “how crazy it was that people who were so incredibly alive could get so incredibly dead.” (page 223)

    Ted Lavender

    Burden

    Fear
    Loss of Life/Death

    Carried
    Tranquilizers
    Premium Dope
    Starlight Scope

    Summary: Chapter-“The Things They Carried” 

    Ted Lavender was scared he carried tranquilizers. He was killed by a sniper one day when he stepped into the jungle to pee.

    Quotes

    “Ted Lavender, who was scared carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe.” (page 2)

    "Ted Lavender who was scared carried 34 rounds, whenhe was shot and killed outside Than Khe" (6). 

    "Ted Lavender carried 6 or 7 ounces of premium dope, which for him was a necessity" (3).

    "the poor bastard just flat fuck fell" (6).

    "Still zipping himself up. He got zapped while zipping" (16).

    Curt Lemon

    Burdens

    Death, Courage, Bravery, Embarassment and Immaturity


    Chapters: "How to Tell a True War Story" and "The Dentist"

    Curt, 19 years old, plays "hot potato" with a smoke grenade. Curt steps on a land mine, blown up, body parts end up in the trees.
    Rat Kiley, best friend, writes a letter to Curt's sister. Rat goes crazy with grief and tortures and kills a water buffalo.


    Curt hates the Dentist, he faints and Curt is embarassed. He has a perfectly good tooth pulled 

    Quotes 

    "It wasn't a war story. It was a love story" (Page 85) 

    "It's easy to get sentimental about the dead" (82)

    Tim O'Brien-author and narrator

    Burdens

    Guilt, His Memories, Nightmares

    Summary: Chapters "The Man I Killed" and "Ambush"

    Tim is on guard duty. A North Vietnameses soldier walks by and Tim throws a grenade and kills the soldier. Tim just stares at the dead body. Tim is in shock seeing the "enemy" he killed up close. Makes up a  fictional past and future for the soldier. Never forgets. The dead soldier haunts Tim in his dreams. 

    Quotes

    "You keep writing these war stories so I guess you must've killed somebody...This why I keep writing war stories" (131).

    "It was entirely automatic" (132).

    "There were no thoughts about killing. The grenade was to make him go away--just evaporate" (133).

    "Even now I haven't finished sorting it out. Sometimes I forgive myself, other times I don't" (134).