A Review of: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

In this book, the writing was very simple. There were no large confusing words and the entire tone was written as if he were talking to you, showing no regard for sentence structure and grammatical no- no's. Tim O'Brien made the war seem both disgustingly horrible and beautiful at the same time. Even the death of a friend seemed so pure and beautiful in this passage:

They were just goofing. There was a noise, I suppose which must've been the detonator, so I glanced behind me and watched Lemon step from the shade into the bright sunlight. His face was suddenly brown and shining. A handsome kid, really. Sharp gray eyes, lean and narrow- waisted, and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms.

One thing that the author seems to like to do is to tell a story multiple times. Sometimes he will have just little hints, or sometimes full paragraphs. For an example, here is the same story that I just quoted only a few pages later:

Twenty years later, I can still see the sunlight on Lemmon's face I can see him turning, looking back at Rat Kiley, then he laughed and took that curious half step from shade into sunlight, his face suddenly brown and shining, and when his foot touched down, in that instant, he must've thought it was the sunlight that was killing him. It was not the sunlight. It was a rigged 105 round. But if I could ever get the story right, how the sun seemed to gather around him and lift him high into a tree, if I could somehow recreate the fatal whiteness of that light, the quick glare, the obvious cause and effect, then you would believe the last thing Curt Lemmon believed, which for him must've been the final truth.

Also in the style of the writing contains many parts that convey the author's struggle to put memories and pictures to words. In the chapter "How to Tell a True War Story," the author begins with a simple sentence:

This is true.

But on the very next page there is a contradicting statement:

In any war story, but especially a true one, it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way. The angles of vision are skewed….The pictures get jumbled, you tend to miss a lot. And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.

The language of this book is so common and human that it makes this book easy to comprehend and quick to read. There is no deep thought required of this book.

I really liked this book. I mean Really liked it. Never before have I read a war story that was this interesting to me. The author didn't dig into strategy or the technical half of the war, but rather he focused on the people of the war; the bonded friendship between him and his fellow soldiers, the people in the poor villages of Vietnam, the man he killed, and his daughter. All of the people in the story really brought the book to life and made it feel as though I knew them. There was a human quality to this book that many writers try for, but (in my personal experience) do not succeed often. I really liked this book.

I read through this book very quickly. I believe that the simple writing and short chapters really helped. Personally, I mark my progress for reading by chapters, after so many chapters, I take a rest. Since the chapters were so short in this book, I didn't find myself counting the pages until I would allow myself a break like I usually do for most books, but rather I read it at every possible moment. I strongly recommend this book to any person who has interest in the Vietnam War, wars in general, or just a student who has to read a book on the subject of wars. This was a good book.

Michelle Wright

Student Gallery | E-Mail Doug at mrdoug@aznet.net and he will pass your comments on to Michelle.