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I'm Ellie, and I'm going to be doing my very first internship this summer. It's pretty exciting. I've never had an office job.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Memories in the Making

     In the book The Things They Carried, the soldiers of the Alpha company had to carry things that were both tangible and intangible. "Pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent" are a few things that every man had to carry (O'Brien 2). Other things such as the "toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel sized pars of soap" carried by Dave Jensen weren't necessary, but they say a lot about who he was (O'Brien 2). He practiced good hygiene even if it meant some extra weight. Some of the things carried were not in their rucksacks, but in their hearts, such as the love for Martha carried by Jimmy Cross. What we carry in the physical realm and in the mental realm say a good deal about who we are and what we believe in. It is vital to understand this concept of the things we carry defining us because without some things, we don't know who we are. This is true for at least one thing that everyone carries, memory.

     Memories not only make a person who they are, but our own memories make all the other people around us. How does one know that his mother is really his mother? Memory says that this otherwise random woman is his mother because of things done in the past, i.e. he was told that woman was his mother, she said she was his mother, she took care of him, showed love and affection. Someone would not know these things, however, if they could not remember said past. Tim O'Brien is very aware of this concept of memories building people in our minds and shows his great understanding in his novel The Things They Carried.

     O'Brien has made up the main characters in his novel. He tells us that they did not exist in the chapter "Good Form." This is quite strange considering the book is dedicated to them. Kiowa, Rat Kiley, Jimmy Cross, and friends may or may not have been based on real people, but the most outstanding idea here is that this book is a compilation of O'Brien's memories from Vietnam. Not only that, but it is his memories portrayed in a way that makes his readers feel the same way he did out in Vietnam. This is where his idea of story-truth and happening-truth arises. O'Brien says, "I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth," (171). He then goes on to say that he can give the dead from the war a new life by creating his own memories about them. Is it lying? Maybe, but O'Brien wants those people he was afraid to see then to have meaning now, which is an honorable task.

 O'Brien uses memory to retell his experience in the war and to give life to any of the Vietnam War's victims he came into contact with. Whether it was the man he supposedly killed or Kiowa drowning, O'Brien uses memory to breathe life back into those people, so that they can die a noble death and that we may know they're story. Many soldiers and civilians died in such horrible ways, it is quite wonderful that one person wants to remember them in an honorable way, even if it is "lying". Building people out of memories is something that every one does, but O'Brien does this in a very elegant way. He does it in a manner that makes his imaginary people feel real. His imaginary friends now have immortal stories because he so thoroughly built them with the memories he wished he had.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

1 comment:

  1. This blog was very well written. I like that your topic was a deep subject matter. I feel that some of the best stories are about an idea that is deep where you can explore ideas that maybe other people have not thought about. I also thought you used many quotes from the book which helped to back up your story. I like how you went into depth about why O'Brien tells a story where we, as the audience, do not know if it is true or not.