O’Brien “The Things They Carried”, answer questions

There needs to be written answers to the following questions as journals. They can be written as small paragraphs or bigger paragraphs.

“How to Tell a True War Story”

List the narrator’s comments about what constitutes a true war story. What do you think these competing and contradictory ideas finally add up to?

“Ambush”

In this chapter, O’Brien says that he keeps writing war stories because he did kill someone in Vietnam. In what ways is the title “Ambush” significant?

“Speaking of Courage” and“Notes”

What is the effect of “notes,” in which O’Brien explains the story behind “Speaking of Courage”? Does your appreciation of the story change when you learn which parts are “true” and which are the author’s invention?

“In the Field”

O’Brien writes, “When a man died, there had to be blame.” What does this mandate do to the men of O’Brien’s company? Are they justified in thinking themselves at fault? How do they cope with their own feelings of culpability?

“The Lives of the Dead”

On the copyright page of one edition of the novel appears the following: “This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author’s own life, all the incidents, names and characters are imaginary.” How does this statement affect your reading of the novel?

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“How to Tell a True War Story”

List the narrator’s comments about what constitutes a true war story. What do you think these competing and contradictory ideas finally add up to?

O’Brien uses examples of tales from his fellow soldiers to illustrate the fact that truth is a delicate and malleable thing when it comes to telling war stories. After all, anything can be faked… but generally, only the worst events can be proven real. He concludes that in the end, the truth of a story doesn’t matter so much as what the story is trying to say.

Identifying varying methods of storytelling is also a way for O’Brien undercut his own narrative. One of the projects of the book is to put readers on guard against unreliable narrators. This is a deeply political agenda. O’Brien is angry with his generation of young men and women for not asking enough questions of authority figures. He blames them, at least partially, for being blindly led into the quagmire of Vietnam. He wants to teach his readers to do better: to ask questions, not to believe too easily.

Answered on 02.06.2017.
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“Ambush”

In this chapter, O’Brien says that he keeps writing war stories because he did kill someone in Vietnam. In what ways is the title “Ambush” significant?

The title is an ironic pun. O’Brien ambushed the soldier with a grenade and Kathleen ambushed her father with a wrenching question. O’Brien killed the soldier, and Kathleen threw her father into moral confusion.

Answered on 02.06.2017.
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Speaking of Courage” and “Notes”

What is the effect of “notes,” in which O’Brien explains the story behind “Speaking of Courage”? Does your appreciation of the story change when you learn which parts are “true” and which are the author’s invention?

The chapter “Notes” is very important to the understanding of the story. The details and explanations help the reader understand and sympathize with Bowker. Bowker was just a normal guy who did extraordinary things. He was brave when he had to be, and he considered that to be something every soldier should do. The reader learns that even though Bowker has done amazing things, he still considers himself a failure for an event that was not his fault. Notes” gives “Speaking of Courage” much more depth once we find out why it was written. The fact that it was written after Norman died as a sort of memoir and explanation of why he might have done what he did makes it all the more heart-wrenching.

To me, notes made the previous chapter even more personal and meaningful. To see what was made up, it made the details that actually matter even more important. The point of that story is not where it was or the junior college or a lake and causeway. Its the effect the war had on the individual and their hometown, and how they felt like they didn’t belong anymore. “Norman Bowker’s letter hit me hard.

Answered on 02.06.2017.
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“In the Field”

O’Brien writes, “When a man died, there had to be blame.” What does this mandate do to the men of O’Brien’s company? Are they justified in thinking themselves at fault? How do they cope with their own feelings of culpability?

O’Brien’s statement that “When a man died, there had to be blame” is a clear reflection of human nature itself. As people, we usually don’t chalk things up to fate or some higher power. Humans search for the answers to everything and almost can’t accept things when there are no clear answers. This is why people always want to blame someone for something because they just want to be given a straight answer as to why something occurred. The quote mandates the men in O’Brien’s company to place blame in Kiowa’s death. Some look to themselves and some are more than willing to blame other people.

None  of men are justified in blaming themselves. War is war, mistakes are made and sometimes cannot be fixed easily, but none of these men directly caused Kiowa’s death. Mortar shells were what killed him, not any one of them. Due to this feeling of guilt, they all cope differently. Norman Bowker is forever changed by the event and cannot return to his normal pre-war life after it ends. Jimmy Cross considers writing t to Kiowa’s parents, he lets out all of his feelings about Kiowa in writing. He wants Kiowa’s family to know how great their son was and how proud they should be. He also demands that they find Kiowa’s body because it wouldn’t be right to leave him in that disgusting field. Mitchell Sanders copes by blaming someone else and then trying to talk about it with other people. These responses show that all humans react to grief differently, but to get over something traumatic, people have to find a way to cope.

Answered on 02.06.2017.
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“The Lives of the Dead”

On the copyright page of one edition of the novel appears the following: “This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author’s own life, all the incidents, names and characters are imaginary.” How does this statement affect your reading of the novel?

The fact that most of the things in the novel are fiction doesn’t change my opinion of the novel. Obviously the names are fake because these are the characters private lives and how they got through Vietnam. There were false parts of the story to make it a little over exaggerated so that you imagine and feel what the characters did at the time. I think most of the story was as true as O’Brien could tell it. “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

Answered on 02.06.2017.
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