The Things They Carried

Sep 14, 2017 in Literature

It is often mentioned that a war reveals human personality in the way that is never possible in peaceful life. In other words, the war discloses the worst and the best in human nature, which can be traced in the themes of O’Brien’s work “The Things They Carried”. The themes of guilt and weakness on the one hand are contrasted with those of friendship and respect on the other hand.

Speaking about weakness, it should be noted that is closely related to the idea of masculinity, which rejects weakness for being not appropriate for men. However, soldiers at war cannot be brave and heroic all the time, it is part of human nature to be weak, especially under such circumstances. Besides, humanity is an instinct that works against killing: “I was terrified.  There were no thoughts about killing.  The grenade was to make him go away – just evaporate – and I leaned back and felt my mind go empty and then felt it fill up again”( O’Brien, The Man I Killed).

Yet, under the threat of death, many people realize which things are meaningful and which are not. Friendship and respect become a form of true humanity under circumstances when love and affection become the only glimpses of light: “Rat pours his heart out.  He says he loved the guy.  He says the guy was his best friend in the world.  They were like soul mates, he said, like twins or something, they had a whole lot in common”( O’Brien,  How to Tell a True War Story). Thus, devotion is a human trait that is absolutely necessary at war, because it gives meaning to actions, otherwise meaningless. It makes sense to fight in the war for the sake of close people, even though the war takes place in a foreign land for political interest.

Related essays