Book Review: The Things They Carried By Tim O’Brien

By: Simone Williams

You remember those old books you had to read in high school? Remember that weird kid who actually liked them? Well that was me with The Things They Carried. This novel by Tim O’Brien depicts the lives of a platoon of soldiers during the Vietnam War. This book doesn’t shy away from the realism of war or the effects it has on the soldiers forced to participate in it. The title of the book is both literal and figurative. This book discussed the things soldiers have to physically carry across the terrain, as well as mentally throughout the war. These things vary from love letters, to rabbits’ feet. O’Brien describes the gritty, and bloody side of war that the media doesn’t usually show.

O’Brien wrote from his own experiences in the war, which is fascinating. Everyone in his platoon had a different life and personality, but being stuck in the hell of war brought them together. This book also discusses the grim reality that is always a result of war: death. He talks about the death of soldiers, civilians and even the explosion of a pig, which left me personally traumatised.

Without giving too much away, this is a book you should definitely read. It deals with not only the struggles during war, but also the struggles afterward. The feelings of fear and guilt are explored heavily throughout these soldiers’ journeys, and afterward as they confide in O’Brien. The guilt of surviving and the confusion on what to do with their lives after the war was made very real, and is thoroughly explored by O’Brien. In the chapter “Notes” the confusion of life after the war is discussed through a series of letters written to O’Brien by fellow soldier Norman Bowker. Bowker later takes his own life at a YMCA. This is the unfortunate truth of life after war.

These depressing truths are explored and discussed throughout The Things They Carried. This book had a very unexpected impact on me personally. I don’t usually like war stories, but this one captured my attention. The gritty truth of the war, and the way he depicts it kept me engaged in the story. I found the stories of the war interesting and O’Brien really manages to bring the reader into the jungle with him.

If you’ve never read a story depicting war, I advise you to read this one. It will keep your attention all the way through, and you won’t regret it. This is a book I personally recommend, and trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.

Simone Williams, from Chicago, Illinois is a first year student at Illinois College, majoring in English. Simone is a new writer for The Rambler, and is very passionate about all things writing.

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