Sequence: The Flashbacks They Recalled/Carried


Sequence: The Flashbacks They Recalled/Carried

Notes on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried:

The suggestion may be made that the novel humanizes the soldiers. They carried innocence and experience. They carried the good of their humanity in conflict with the evil of their ways required to survive. O’Brien humanizes the soldiers with their obsessions to return home to friends and family, but also shows them as boys filling the roles of soldiers, and yet monsters with distorted perceptions and values for life.

For example, Azar straps Ted Lavender’s puppy to an explosive device, Lee Strunk bashes his own nose to even the score for bashing Dave Jensen’s nose, and Rat Kiley gruesomely slays a baby water buffalo as well as shooting himself in the foot to get sent home.

Another example of humanization and monster-ization is the story “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” which details the transformation of Mary Anne Bell from a sweet and innocent simpleton to a deadly and savage combatant, losing/forgoing her innocence to the jungle and the spirit of war and/or the land, Vietnam.

The sequence of events are out of order. They carried sequence of events muddled with reflections. O’Brien carries those reflections like a torch to light fire to those who hear the stories, and understand the moral. Perhaps O’Brien writes the sequence of events out of order as a literary device to convey how a soldier’s post-war recollections may come in waves of thought, or flashbacks as they may be called/carried.



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