Response to The Things They Carried

A portrayal can only be ‘accurate’ if an account of the events is real. This implies that O’Brien historical accounts of the events in Vietnam are historically reliable or verifiable. In other words, the author must have portrayed people, places, and events accurately, or how could the reader trust what he narrates. Many skeptics of accurate portrayals argue that writers often use imaginary people and that some stories that require eyewitnesses who can corroborate the stories are nonexistent. O’Brien`s narrative is about what the platoon of army people did, while they were in Vietnam (O’Brien 8). The story is centered on the platoon’s demise and the poor conditions that they faced while in Vietnam. Obviously, from an emotional point of view, the stories could have been difficult for one to narrate. Ascertaining the accuracy of O’Brien’s portrayals in the body is challenging; however, the characters in the stories are the ones who can verify it (given that they are real breathing souls).

“The Things They Carried” qualifies as an art from a personal conception and understanding of its development as well as delivery since it expresses the writer’s imaginative skills, which he had intended to be appreciated for its emotional power (O’Brien 10). The writer’s intent plays a critical role in the meaning of works of art because it conveys the primary idea, while other interpretations can be dropped. It defines the ideas that O`Brien represented and the content as the writer’s personal experience on the subject as the main priority. Post-structurally, the significance of a work of art can be understood from the cultural context of the development, including the emotions and reactions it elicits. The cultural context can reduce the writer’s intents and style. In such a case, the analysis proceeds along lines that are akin to formalism.

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For the portrayal of war stories in Vietnam to be accurate, they have to be historically authentic. The accuracy of the portrayals is rather subjective, yet an objective analysis of the portrayals would demand enormous resources. The resources can be employed in tracking down the characters in the book and seek an independent opinion on the truth or otherwise. There were chapters that appeared fictional and probably conveyed his inner artistic expressions, in particular, “The Man I Killed,” and “Ambush.” These parts were autobiographical as the writer was involved in several ambushes (O’Brien 15). A Vietnam War veteran who served during the same period doubted the contents of the book. He was skeptical of the platoon sergeant’s portrayal during the entire period that happened in the platoon. Moreover, the lieutenant platoon leader came across as worse, even if such would have been possible. O’Brien portrayed him as a worm, which is difficult to comprehend because, typically, he could not have made it out of that place for more than a fortnight without a difficult situation. Besides, it appears absurd that the girlfriend props up in the combat zone and patrols or almost at will most of the time (O’Brien 42).

O’Brien is a great storyteller. He has the natural storytelling ability to provide compelling and near visual accounts of the events during the war. The story is captivating because of the emotion he puts into his narrative. The readers do not just derive a sense of what exactly occurred. Readers learn what the characters were thinking, what they were concerned about the emotions that inspired and drove them. O’Brien created empathy for actual people, which draws readers into the narrative.


Work Cited

O’Brien, Tim. The Things they Carried. Houghton Mifflin, 1990.