Analysis of O’Brien’s Use of Tone in the Things They Carried

April 10, 2021 by Essay Writer

Behind every war hero’s eyes lies the soulless connection to humanity, physically present but emotionally disconnected from the world. Behind every war hero is the years of untreatable trauma and years of unnoticed suffering. Their silent and desperate screams for help, are constantly unheard by ordinary people. Tone plays an important part in war stories and In The Things They Carried, O’Brien displays the emotional connection between the soldiers like their love, bond, friendship, etc. In the book, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien describes the tales of war, describing the effects it had on ones mentality.

The novel uses tone to describe what each soldier went through and the significance of what they carried using sympathetic, bleak, etc, tone to help the readers understand and emotionally connect to the soldiers, understanding their emotions. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien describes the Vietnam War and that adversity the soldiers went through. War stories often carry certain tones different than that of other books, the author’s have to be distance but also emotionally close enough to draw raw emotions from the readers. Adversity is an experience that every human being encounters at least once or twice in their lifetime, and in The Things they Carried the soldiers face their greatest adversity, war.

O’Brien writes the stories of characters like Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, Kiowa, Norman Bowker, etc. to explain what they went through and the significance of what they carried. O’Brien’s tone towards the war is non-judgemental of any situation but also apathetic of what his comrades went through. O’Brien Street history with Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, his tone while describing Lt. Cross’s story is somber, nostalgic and empathetic. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is a man of integrity which starts to diminish throughout his journey as his love for Martha overtakes his mind. Apart from from the ammunitions cross carried he also carried letters from Marta that he cherished greatly. The letter signifies the contrast between Jimmy’s two worlds, life with war and one without. He does not connect the two and use life with Martha as an escape from the war, resisting his duties and withdrawing away from Vietnam which causes several deaths of his comrades.

Kiowa was a Native American who tried to do things with compassion and kindness. Kiowa carried a bible which showed his value of religion, and his connection back home as his father was a preacher. His Bible also reveals the underlying message of native conformity. Norman Bowker was a relatively gentle soldier throughout the war, and his death at the end of the novel reveals the struggles and pressures of war veterans. Norman Bowker carried a diary which was significant as it shows how he dealt with his feelings. When writing the stories of Kiowa and Norman Bowker, O’Brien’s tone was different than in the other chapters. O’Brien tones were ones of guilt when concerning Kiowa and Norman Bowker. Guilt for not being able to save his best friend Kiowa and for most writing the best description of Norman Bowker’s story before his death. Although O’Brien felt guilty, his tone also expressed emotions of empathy, understanding, and non-judgment. He understood Norman Bowker and his actions during the rainy day.

The human brain has the capability to imagine anything it wants, which helps us get out the unwanted reality and enter into a…one. The imagination copes with helping deal with reality, but for soldiers with trauma, the imagination is worse place than the harsh reality. The soldiers of the Vietnam War endured many horrific experiences which affected both their physical and mental capabilities. The soldier of the war carried many things, but the emotional and psychological baggage was heavier than all; the baggage of societal pressures, guilt, etc. “It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do” -sorrowful. This quote displays the pressures and emotional damage men from the war experience and how it affects their everyday life even after the war. This can be shown through Norman Bowker and the author, Tim O’Brien’ who even after having a family cannot forget the war. While there were bad parts of the war, they were some good parts for the soldiers, like the emotional bond they have.

The bond of the soldiers and their understanding of each other. Their friendship, love and connection to each together. “They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak”. This shows the brotherhood between the soldiers, and displays their reliance on each other to survive. The novel goes into the deep bond the men had with themselves and the trust they had. In conclusion, soldiers throughout war carry significant things including their emotional baggage and deep bond with each other. Trauma is unforgettable and soldiers live their everyday life, reliving that horror. They fight their mental and physiological demons that are not obvious to the public. They have no one to truly turn to which results in them enduring until the inevitable end.

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