Cover image for The things they carried : a work of fiction
Title:
The things they carried : a work of fiction
Author:
O'Brien, Tim, 1946-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Broadway Books trade paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Broadway Books, 1998.

©1990
Physical Description:
246 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
Originally pub. 1990.
Language:
English
Contents:
The things they carried -- Love -- Spin -- On the Rainy River -- Enemies -- Friends -- How to tell a true war story -- The dentist -- Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong -- Stockings -- Church -- The man I killed -- Ambush -- Style -- Speaking of courage -- Notes -- In the field -- Good form -- Field trip -- The ghost soldiers -- Night life -- The lives of the dead.
Reading Level:
880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.8 10.0 57010.

Reading Counts RC High School 9 13 Quiz: 11419 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780767902892
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with such care, emotional content, and prosaic precision that it could stand on its own. The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves. With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried  is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war. It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive.


Author Notes

Tim O'Brien was born on October 1, 1946 in Austin, Minnesota. He graduated from Macalester College in 1968 and was immediately drafted into the U. S. Army, serving from 1969 to 1970 and receiving a Purple Heart.

Three years later, his memoirs of the Vietnam War were published as If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. Later works include Northern Lights (1975), Going After Cacciato (1978, winner of the National Book Award), and The Things They Carried (1990, winner of the Melcher Book Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award).

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Weapons and good-luck charms carried by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam here represent survival, lost innocence and the war's interminable legacy. ``O'Brien's meditations--on war and memory, on darkness and light--suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel,'' said PW. 60,000 first printing. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Winner of a National Book Award in 1979 for Going After Cacciato ( LJ 12/15/77), O'Brien again shows his literary stuff with this brilliant collection of short stories, many of which have won literary recognition (several appeared in O. Henry Awards' collections and Best American Short Stories ). Each of the 22 tales relates the exploits and personalities of a fictional platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere selection of stories reprinted from magazines. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse - Five ( LJ 3/1/69) has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity. Literary Guild featured alternate. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/89.-- Mark Annichiarico, ``Library Journal'' (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

YA-- A series of stories about the Vietnam experience, based on the author's recollections. O'Brien begins by sharing the talismans and treasures his select small band of young soldiers carry into battle. The tales, ranging from a paragraph to 20 or so pages, reveal one truth after another. Sometimes the author tells the same story from different points of view, revealing the lingering, sometimes consuming, effect war leaves on the soul. In the end, readers are left with a mental and emotional sphere of mirrors, each reflecting a speck of truth about the things men carry into and out of war. In addition to leisure reading, this collection offers potential for history classes studying war, for English classes doing units on short stories, and perhaps for sociology or psychology assignments.-- Barbara Hawkins, West Potomac High, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

A fine collection of short stories (some of which have appeared previously and received awards) about a platoon of foot soldiers in Vietnam during 1970. Unlike O'Brien's prize-winning war story Going After Cacciato (1979), this collection is clearly a postwar account. Narrated by the writer 20 years later, the stories reflect his attempt through memory, imagination, and language to recover self. This desire for healing is mirrored in the harmonies created by the blending stories that, interweaving characters, themes, and perspectives, anticipate key incidents and effect moments of resolution. While also acknowledging the illusive nature of factual truth, this innovative form more significantly insists on the need for a story's honesty to the "hard and exact truth as it seemed" ("How to Tell a True War Story"); stories "can save us," the narrator concludes ("The Lives of the Dead"). O'Brien's clear, precise prose finally assumes symbolic allusiveness, as exemplified by the burdens of the title story. Highly recommended for collections of contemporary literature and American war fiction. -J. M. Sabre, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus


Table of Contents

The Things They Carriedp. 1
Lovep. 27
Spinp. 31
On the Rainy Riverp. 39
Enemiesp. 62
Friendsp. 65
How to Tell a True War Storyp. 67
The Dentistp. 86
Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bongp. 89
Stockingsp. 117
Churchp. 119
The Man I Killedp. 124
Ambushp. 131
Stylep. 135
Speaking of Couragep. 137
Notesp. 155
In the Fieldp. 162
Good Formp. 179
Field Tripp. 181
The Ghost Soldiersp. 189
Night Lifep. 219
The Lives of the Deadp. 225

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