The Things They Carried: A Comparative Analysis between Tim O'Brien and Javier Cercas

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Weil, Joseph P. "Female Representations in Contemporary Postmodern War Novels of Spain and the United States: Women as Tools of Modern Catharsis in the Works of Javier Cercas and Tim O'Brien."(2015).

Weil in his work explains how the notion of women was used as a tool in the modern catharsis through a comparative analysis using the novel the things they carried as written by Tim O’Brien. Weil writes the experience of the women during the Vietnam War. The analysis given by the author portrays a picture of what happened during the war equipping him with the confidence to express the experience between pages and availing the whole scenario to the whole world. O’Brien utilizes the items carries by the soldiers to portray his experience. “By telling stories, you objectify your experience. You separate from yourself”. The items carried by the soldiers during the war were used to portray what happened on the battlefield. Weil, therefore, tries to clarify the fact that “the things they carried” were useless comparing them to the feelings of fear, love and loss and bringing forward the memories of their friends in the military during the war. Weil explains that they carried all the emotional luggage of men who died. Speaking of love, tangibles, logging and Terror grief were all the emotions they uphold for the lost.

All the men during the war had their own emotions to care. For instance, Lieutenant Jimmy had letters and photographs which belonged to Martha. Therefore, he carried the most massive burden of love. According to Weil, it is clear that Martha did not feel much love as he thought for her although he dreamt about it. He was concerned about the welfare of the other people, and as a result, he blamed himself for the lavender’s death. He had a daydreaming habit which compromised the responsibilities that he had as a leader. However, he was not strong enough to conduct his job description as compared other soldiers in Vietnam. He only signed to do the job because other people did the job.

According to Weil, war men had a call to the weight of their memories. They all carried ghosts. They supported each other and fought for their lives united. The men had sniper fire which they used during the day. However, they were attacked at night not for the battle, but due to an endless march which took them from village to village where they lost or won nothing. The men experienced hard times and panicked frequently. The men made promises to themselves, their loved ones and God which they had to accomplish if they came out alive.

Weil explains that these men carried the burden of cowardice and hiding in the middle of fellow soldiers, and the weight of dilemma to stop or to run. They experienced moments of shame and were frightened for revealing their cowardice. Most of the soldiers in the war were teenagers and young men who had little information on what was life. They found themselves in a situation between life and death and had lots of fear and despair. They did not like the effects caused by the high concentration of adrenaline in their system. They explained the war in few words as a mystery, hell and terror. They stated that war was a fun and similar terror. War makes someone a man. It is like labor.

According to Weil, the things they carried can be interpreted differently depending on the theme chosen by an individual. Therefore Weil portrays the author of the stuff they moved as a veteran and as a result, he is assumed to take many things for granted and preserve them for himself. He doesn’t explain that the involvement of the Americans during the war was caused by internal domestic politics and the national spirit. According to Weil, the American soldiers were made to fight for reasons which did not have a cause. Weil is not carried away by the literal sense but seems like he does not support the actions that took place in Vietnam. He describes a spirit word. It is a word that explains a reflection of many American soldiers who were in the Vietnam War physical but not spiritually. The author is very definite about the aspects that happened in Vietnam. He describes it as a wrong action that was taken by the American government to send soldiers to Vietnam.

Based on the context explained by Weil, the things they carried can be used to represent several meanings. One of the implication is that the soldiers were not there to fight but just jumping one step and then the next and then another but no will, no violation since it was automatic. The soldiers did not feel special attention as to why they were in Vietnam.

Weil explains that the Vietnam War can be similarly explained to the things they carried story which happened in the 20th century when many youths were taken to participate in a war against the communism. The author notes that over 8000 American soldiers perished during the Vietnam War. The brutality experienced during the Vietnam War is similar to what is described in O’Brien’s book. Weil states that the experience in the war tortured the soldiers both psychologically and emotionally. To some an extent, it was a life-changing experience which hanged their perception about life, conflict and different situations.

Therefore, Weil is very definite in his work and clearly explains themes and different contexts in each paragraph that relates to the things they carried, and its direct relation to the Vietnam War.

November 24, 2023



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