For this blog assignment, you are to select the most significant passage in the book, The Things They Carried. It is up to you how to define passage (sentence, paragraph, vignette, etc). You must quote verbatim and cite the passage accurately (for longer passages, use ellipses). Then, in at least two well-written paragraphs, explain not only a brief synopsis of what is happening during the passage (BRIEF is key), but also what makes the passage significant to the text as a whole. In other words, WHY IS IT SIGNIFICANT? Does it showcase a theme? A motif? Is it most telling of the war? O'Brien's overall message?

Please abstain from making this all about you and how the passage strikes you alone. This assignment should be focused on the passage and its affect on the reading, not you.

It's been a while since we've blogged. Please proofread and make sure what you submit is worthy of a 20-point assignment AND make sure to respond to at least one other post.

 


Comments

Emma Chester
04/24/2013 1:50pm

The most important passage in The Things They Carried is found on page 127 (hardcover) in The Man I Killed.
It reads: "Frail-looking and delicately boned, the young man would not have wanted to be a soldier and in his heart would have feared performing badly in battle. Even as a boy growing up in the village of My Khe, he had often worried about this. He imagined covering his head and lying in a deep hole until the war was over. He had no stomach for violence. He loved mathematics. His eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman's, and at school the boys sometimes teased him about how pretty he was, the arched eyebrows and long shapely fingers, and on the playground they mimicked a woman's walk and made fun of his smooth skin and his love for mathematics. The young man could not make himself fight then. He often wanted to, but he was afraid, and this increased his shame. If he could not fight little boys, he thought, how could he ever become a soldier and fight the Americans with their airplanes and helicopters and bombs? It did not seem possible. In the presence of his fathers and uncles, he pretended to look forward to doing his patriotic duty, which was also a privilege, but at night he prayed with his mother that the war might end soon. Beyond anything else, he was afraid of disgracing himself, and therefore his family and village. But all he could do, he thought, was wait and pray and try not to grow up too fast" (O'Brien 127).
This passage is significant for so many reasons. At this time in the book, the author is blaming himself for the circumstantial death of this young man and making up his life story. One of the striking things about the way he describes the young man is that he imagines him similar to himself. He is humanizing the enemy and relating to the dead guy that lay on the trail at his feet. It is really revealing of the author's true emotions: how he didn't want to come, how he had a whole different plan for his life, how he came out of fear of embarrassment. And he then convinces himself that the dead VC felt the same way. The excerpt truly enlightens the reader to everything the author is afraid of. He doesn’t want to end up as another faceless, nameless casualty in a war that he wanted nothing to do with.
The passage is also very telling of war itself. Because the author created this fantasy backstory to the lifeless body in front of him, he depicts all of the things that war takes away from the soldiers. A career, a sense of safety, a future, an identity. It shows how eminent death can be in Vietnam, and it provides the manifestation of what may become any man’s reality. It also shows that war affects everyone, even a slender mathematician with no intention to participate in the violence. It also further extends O’Brien’s motif of death in Vietnam. There’s Lavender, Lemon, Kiowa, and this man from the opposing side that the author connects himself to, this man that he even grieves for, after never meeting him. His death is just as meaningful as the death of the author’s buddies, and that says a lot about how the author views war. It is a mass killing, of good men from both countries. This passage alone adequately summarizes the war for the author and many other soldiers.

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Maddie Williams
04/26/2013 12:32pm

For me, the most significant passage of The Things They Carried is the chapter entitled "Good Form." In this chapter, O'Brien gives a short but powerful description of the difference between a real, factual war story ("happening-truth") and a story that is written from the author's heart, no matter how true it may be ("story-truth"). He makes it clear that the "story-truth" is often more true than what actually may have happened, because of the meaning it holds its author's heart. There are several reasons that "Good Form" sticks out in my mind, but the chief one is that it explains why Tim O'Brien needed to write this book. It reveals the therapy that is offered to him through writing down his memories and emotions that are results of his experience in Vietnam. He says: "What stories can do, I guess, is make things present. I can look at things I've never looked at. I attach faces to grieve and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again" (O'Brien 180). To me, this shows the depth of emotion and remembrance that writing gives O'Brien. It isn't always about how accurate his stories are, but more about how his writing allows him to take what he feels in his heart about what happened in Vietnam and relive it, no matter how wonderful or painful that may be.
A second reason as to why this is the most significant passage is because it speaks for the powerful honesty of the book as an entirety. Throughout, O'Brien does not skimp on the details: brutal deaths and horrifying battles, gut wrenching emotions of homesickness and fear. But in "Good Form," O'Brien confirms the idea that this honesty is not always honest by facts. It's something bigger. It's honest by the heart. The experiences of a Vietnam veteran that are shared in the chapters of the book are all stories that come from the hearts of the soldiers; men who went through something they will never forget. And "Good Form" explains that these kind of stories are as honest as it gets. Even if a story isn't accurate down to the last detail, the story as a whole could not be any more accurate, because it comes from the soul of the person who experienced it.

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Caitlin Morgan
04/27/2013 7:00am

I love your statement "O'Brien confirms the idea that this honesty is not always honest by facts. It's something bigger. It's honest by the heart." This theme in his writing became prevalent to me also, and you worded it perfectly.

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Emma Chester
04/28/2013 6:25pm

This passage was significant to me, too! I really love the concept of "story-truths" because it is true that sometimes "happening-truths" don't accomplish explaining how the person retelling the event felt. It's one of the things from this book that will stick with me. And truly, a story is told for the sake of the one telling it, so to tell it in it's most pure form, "story-truths" are often necessary.

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Caitlin Morgan
04/26/2013 5:34pm

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”

Above is an excerpt from the “How to Tell a True War Story” vignette, pages 68 and 69. At this point in the book, O’Brien is telling of Rat Kiley and how he watched Curt Lemon die, wrote to his sister, and never heard back. Relative to this specific tale, the aforementioned passage gives preface to all of the terrible things that become reality in war. O’Brien wants readers to feel the cruel side of Vietnam, the truth without the fluff. He tells often of things that seem far too dim to comprehend, too unnatural. But that is the point; war isn’t natural. War is painful and evil and it sticks with a man. There are no fairytale endings, and O’Brien stays true to this in compliance with the “How to Tell a True War Story” excerpt in its entirety throughout the many anecdotes which follow it.

This vignette extract also encompasses O’Brien’s deeper message for life throughout the novel, and how while the rawest bits people encounter may be vulgar and miserable, that is what makes them real. He lets his audience know to stop searching for a cheerful resolve, or some sort of revelation of happiness, supported by the many stories in The Things They Carried. A man can witness horrible things and nearly go half-mad, but that is reality. Some get out, some die under the muck. Plain and simple.

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Leland Dunwoodie
04/27/2013 3:41pm

I like how you talk about O'Brien's "deeper message for life." The words you used to describe the deeper message made me realize that O'Brien's message is applicable to the everyday challenges we face. From school to socializing to extracurriculars, some people make it and some people don't; it's a fact of life.

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Jeff Lueders
04/28/2013 9:37am

I absolutely love your last paragraph. It nails the point of "How to Tell a True War Story" in a nut-shell. It really gets to how sometimes a story is exactly what it says, it's not meant for some misconstrued message or a light at the end of the tunnel; it's just there.

Dylan Gustafson
04/27/2013 4:33pm

"The Man I Killed" would have to be the most important passage in They Things They Carried. In it, O'Brien describes the time when he killed a Vietnamese soldier in the town of My Khe, although he did not want to. According to O'Brien, the man lived a normal, casual life, a teacher of mathematics, and married. But the most important characteristic of this man was that he was scared. He did not want to go to war, he was an innocent man, but he felt he had to go since his family consisted of war veterans (126-128) Then, O'Brien killed him out of instinct and could not hold himself together after that. Key word: instinct. He did not want to kill the man, it just happened. A simple pull of the pin and throw.

This is the most significant passage because it describes how the Vietnam War was experienced by people who did not deserve to be there. Also, how the war killed innocent people, how it took their lives right out of their hands, the people who did not want to fight, but were forced to. This is one of the main themes that O'Brien showcased in the novel, and he portrayed it very well, most specifically in this vignette. In this passage, the man was innocent and O'Brien felt bad for killing an innocent man with no motive to fight.

Another reason why this is important is because the whole situation related to O'Brien in a way. Earlier in the novel, O'Brien talked about how he did not want to go to war, but did to avoid embarrassment from people he know. This was essentially the same reason the man O'Brien killed went to war. Thus, the narrator was able to link this event to his own life, and many lives of others, the ones who tried to avoid war. All in all, this passage describes the years of the Vietnam War, and O'Brien's overall message.

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Collin Halamka
04/28/2013 10:15am

If I hadn't of chosen "Ghost Soldiers" I would have chosen this one. I really like how you interpreted it and all it entails. I completely agree with you on how this vignette was all about how a lot of the people involved in the Vietnam War really didn't want to me there and hoe they had theirs lives ruined or finished by this war.

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Leland Dunwoodie
04/27/2013 5:28pm

The most significant passage in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (title is italicized) is the vignette titled “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” In this vignette, the narrator listens to Rat Kiley tell a story about a woman that flew to Vietnam to be with her lover. The woman, an innocent girl of 17, transforms into the female version of Rambo after only three weeks of being in Vietnam. She’s “just a kid, just barely out of high school” (90) when she arrives in Vietnam and a Green Beret with a “necklace of human tongues” (110) three weeks later. This passage is significant because it shows how war changes people. The entire novel is about war and its various aspects. “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” dispels the notion that people go to war, do some fighting, and come back the same people they were when they left. By using Mary Anne, the author shows how war changes even the most innocent of people.
This passage is also significant because this passage is most telling of the war. This passage is most telling of the war because it shows how war changes everyone. Since war changes everyone, even simpletons like Mary Anne, the message of this passage tells of war as a whole and not just as bits and pieces like the other passages do. Sure, war is hell, and sure, death sucks, but not every moment of war is a firefight. Camaraderie blooms like the Vietnamese jungle. But, as O’Brien illustrates, war always changes people. Therefore, this passage not only conveys an important theme of O’Brien’s novel, but it is most telling of the war as a whole.

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Dylan Gustafson
04/27/2013 6:35pm

I really liked the analogy you used when describing the friendship that is created with other soldiers during war. And it is a misconception that war is only fighting, since most of it involves looking out for potential enemies. Anyways, I also like the way you described war and the effects of it.

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04/28/2013 9:04am

I really enjoyed this section too. It really helped open my eyes to how crazy a war can be and what it can actually do to people. It was a sad section but the point O'Brien was trying to make was able to be strongly portrayed through Mary Anne.

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04/28/2013 9:19am

Leland, I chose this vignette has the most memorable passage as well. I like how you talked about how the war isn't always death and blood shed, but how it mostly changes the person who went there.

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Colby Clark
04/29/2013 3:19pm

This was without a doubt my favorite vignette. It illustrated the Vietnam experience in a way that really struck me. It was a tragic tale, but O'Brian utilized it perfectly to convey his message.

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04/27/2013 6:10pm

The most significant passage from The Things They Carried is "How to Tell a True War Story" (O'Brien 64). During the whole chapter O'Brien describes different aspects that can create a true war story but he writes this section so interestingly because at the end I still feel as if I am left without the true definition of a war story. But I also think that is what O'Brien's point was. As stated in the section a true war story is never moral, it's hard to tell, cannot be believed, and they never seem to end. With all of these different types put together you just have to go with your gut and believe what you want to. This section shows the diversity of what a real war is, some days are good and some are not so good. Some stories are horrifying and some are funny.
The passage that stood out most in this chapter was "In a true war story, if there's a moral at all, it's like the thread that makes the cloth. You can't tease it out. You can't extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there's nothing much to say about a true war story, expect maybe "Oh" (O'Brien 74). It wraps the whole point of his book up in a few sentences, some stories the reader was left speechless and others they were laughing out loud but in either case the moral was somewhere in the story and the reader was just left saying "Oh" as he stated.
The chapter of "How to Tell a True War Story" is the best section of this books that takes the reader to the place O'Brien hoped for. It gives vivid images and he does the best job he can to describe what a true war really entails. By the end of the section there is so much to think about you are left speechless.

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Kaity Wade
04/28/2013 7:12pm

If I hadn't chosen the vignette I did, I would have chosen this one. I completely agree with you when you say that O'Brien doesn't ever clearly say what a true war story is. I think that is exactly his point; a true war story is that which doesn't exist. I also loved how you made the connection between how O'Brien said the readers/listeners of the war story respond, and how readers of this book respond to it. There really isn't much to say.

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David Tarnowski
04/29/2013 3:32am

You made an interesting point about the fact that at the end you never truly understand what a true war story is. I never really picked up on that and it makes a lot of sense. I think it reflects that fact that after we finished reading a vignette, a constant thought through all our heads was, "Is this real?" Because of the way O' Brien frames things it's hard to tell. Good job. Like I said I never thought of the vignette in that sense, but it makes complete and total sense.

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Jeff Lueders
04/28/2013 9:15am

For me, the most meaningful passage in The Things They Carried comes from O'Brien's final vignette, titled "The Lives of the Dead." It's a short statement, not even a full sentence in the book, but it sums up the idea O'Brien is trying to convey to the reader very well. It reads "stories can save us" (O'Brien 213). In this vignette, O'Brien goes between dealing with the death of an old man in a village that his unit put an airstrike on, and the death of his fourth grade love, Linda. In both accounts, his stories save him.

Regarding the old man in the village, telling the story of how the man dies and how O'Brien himself feels saves him from never moving past that moment. Stories are his way of dealing with enormous emotional stresses. In this case, it was his first brush with death in the war. By speaking of what happened, O'Brien feels the ease of knowing that other people understand what he experienced and how he felt. Doing this is what lets O'Brien to move on, and overall it's what lets him survive.

As for dealing with Linda, O'Brien isn't facing death in this part, he's facing a lost love, and here too, stories save him. Linda dying breaks O'Brien in a way, and it's because he won't feel her love ever again. He says that Linda visits him in dreams sometimes, and recounts their first date as a way of remembering her. In this way, his stories help him hold on to Linda and keep alive even though she's dead. And again his story is meant to create understanding, on how he dealt with her death, how he felt, and how it effects him now.

O'Brien's statement that "stories can save us" is applied throughout this vignette, as well as the rest of the book. Each scene he has is a story, and each scene he describes is saving him from something. This is his overarching message.

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Taylor Dale
04/28/2013 12:21pm

I love this part of the book, it is my favorite part. I never thought about it until I read it. Stories keeping people alive, it makes so much sense. Reading the story of O'Briens date with Linda made her seem alive. I could picture her walking, talking, breathing, she definatly was not dead. This is something I could use in my own life. All I have to do is think of the times I enjoyed with my passed relatives and there they will be right next to me. It is a great way to deal with grief and death.

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Danielle Curley
04/29/2013 3:32am

I thought that was the most meanignful passage as well, one of the best. When I read this vingette I thought that it represented how that's what he carries, he carries memories, or stories.

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04/28/2013 9:37am

"What happened to her, Rat said, was what happened to all of them. You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it's never the same. A question of degree. Some make it intact, some don't make it at all. For Mary Anne Bell, it seemed, Vietnam had the effect of a powerful drug: that mix of unnamed terror and unnamed pleasure that comes as the needle slips in and you know you're risking something" (O'Brien 114).

The most memorable passage I believe to be is the excerpt above from the vignette "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" page 114. In this vignette, Rat Kiley is telling a story-truth story about a 17 year old girlfriend of Mark Fossie, Mary Anne Bell, who comes to Vietnam and completely changes. Mary Anne Bell represents the innocence and cleanliness of the young adults who come to fight in the war and become dirty and dark after only a short time being there.

It speaks to me about the life changing alteration every single soldier who is sent over to Vietnam goes through. Mary Anne Bell represents the innocence of the soldiers. They lose their innocence in the jungles and mountains and shit fields of Vietnam. The war sucks the life out of the soldiers; when they go home they can't think of anything else, they don't know what to do to pass the time. They all think about the war in different ways. This passage is significant because it shows how deadly the war is, not with gunfire and grenades, but with how it steals the soldiers' innocence, happiness, love, and ultimately their lives.

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Alex Forsythe
04/28/2013 10:16am

I agree with how you said war steals the innocence and happiness right out of the soldiers. Mary Anne Bell was an innocent girl who came and lost her sense of herself, but it does not matter that she's a girl because the same thing happened to the men. The war swallowed them whole and wouldn't go away, even after the war was over.

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Kaytlynn Toering
04/28/2013 1:57pm

I really like how you described that war was not all about gunfire and grenades. I agree that the bigger loss of war is innocence and friendship. It's crazy how O'Brien describes this event with Mary Anne, but the underlying messgae that he creates is so incredibly profound. I finally think I'm beginning to understand how tramatic Vietnam was.

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Alex Forsythe
04/28/2013 10:11am

The most significant passage I read in The Things They Carried was How To Tell a True War Story. "A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest model of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil" (65-66).
This passage is significant as a whole because in the title, The Things They Carried, some of the things they carried will never be revealed. When a soldier is telling a war story, it won't even matter if the listener believes it or not because the soldier does. The listener has never experienced war for themselves, so they would never know if the events happened or not. A story that is not true could also be true in so many ways because of the way the war affectted the soldier. Some specific things and emotions being felt may not have actually happened to the soldier, but by adding it into the story, it brings out the soldiers actual truth. The purpose of telling the story is to help them cope with the evilness of war itself. Maybe if the soldier adds a few minor details it will make the story sond more real. If they add more terrifying things to the story, maybe it will make it seem like it actually happened. Simply sitting in the warm darkness of the night could change a soldier's life due to the chance of death being so near, but the soldier would add something to make it sound more drastic. Take Norman Bowker for example. Tim O'brien made the entire story up about how he let Kiowa die. It added to the suspense and made it seem like something that might actually in war, so that's why O'brien added it. I believe this whole book to be based off this section alone. The reader may never know the real truth. Only O'brien and his fellow soldiers will.
The overall message that O'brien is trying to send is that a war story is something personal to the soldier. It's their sanity, and how they remember their experiences in Vietnam. If they listener has to question if the story is true, they probably already know the answer. If they don't know the answer, it doesn't even matter because war is evil, and we can't help but believe everything that we're hearing. A war story is true because it's coming from someone who has experienced it for themselves. The truth is, it doesn't matter what the reader thinks.

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Mason Freehling
04/28/2013 2:51pm

I enjoyed this section as well. I thought it really captured the emotional aspect of war and the toll is has on all who were involved. I also liked how you ended it, because like you said, it doesn't matter what the reader thinks.

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Collin Halamka
04/28/2013 10:12am

The most important passage in this book is "Ghost Soldiers." During this vignette, O'Brien talks about his lafe after he gets shot. How he wants to hurt Jorgenson. How he has to sleep on his back and apply ointment to his bum three times a day. Eventually he gets Azar to scare Jorgenson. Azar and O'Brien rig up an elaborate system to scare Jorgenson. They make noise makers activated by ropes. They set off flares. They even had a sandbag that raised up and was covered by smoke. Jorgenson started shooting at it. Azar and O'Brien scared him senseless.

This passage is important because it truly demonstrates the tensions at war. At one point, during planning, Azar says"'What's real?' he said. 'Eight months in fantasy land, it tends to blur the line. Honest to God, I sometimes can't remember what real is (194).'" The soldiers have gone through so much that they are completely desensitized to the world. When they start this elaborate prank on Jorgenson, Azar keeps going after O'Brien tells him to stop. This vignette also demonstrates how susceptible the soldiers were to Viet Cong lores to scare them, such as "Ghosts wiping out a whole squad of marines in twenty seconds flat (195)." The soldiers were terrified of these things. O'Brien included this vignette to demonstrate the mentalities of them, and how they deal with problems amongst themselves.

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Taylor Dale
04/28/2013 12:05pm

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is full of so many great things, but the thing that stands out the most is when he writes, “I know my own eyes” (O’Brien 236). He writes this in the vignette “The Lives of the Dead” when he is reflecting on how he changed in some ways but he is still the same person (O’Brien 236). He compares the “forty-three years old” him to himself as “a fourth grader” and how he handled Linda’s death (O’Brien 236). This line counteracts his theme a little bit. O’Brien writes all about changes then he writes how his eyes did not change.
This one line sums up the whole book. It closes the motif that continues throughout the book. Tim O’Brien is always mentioning eyes. He mentions the eye of the baby buffalo (O’Brien 79), the eyes of Mary Anne after she changes (O’Brien 104&105), the eyes of the person he killed (O’Brien 124). Each time he mentions eyes, he describes them intricately, he gives the reader more than just the color of the eye. He gives the shade, the transparency, the shape, the soul lying with in the blackness of the pupil. With these eyes Tim O’Brien is able to portray his message; war is hard and it changes people. Then in the end of the book he writes, “I know my own eyes” (O’Brien 236). War may have changed the war he looks, but one thing it did not change was his eyes. He is still the same person he was before he entered the war, before he took that first step on Vietnam soil.

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Courtney Bennett
04/28/2013 8:24pm

I didn't really pay much thought to how eyes constantly showed up in the book, but your post really provided some insight. I like the idea that even though war can change many parts of you, your soul can remain essentially constant.

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Rachel Tuller
04/28/2013 12:57pm

The passage I thought was the most significant was actually in the last chapter of the book. What it says is this: "But this too is true: stories can save us. I'm forty-three years old, and a writer now, and even still, right here, I keep dreaming Linda alive. And Ted Lavender, too, and Kiowa, and Curt Lemon, and a slim young man I killed, and an old man sprawled beside a pigpen, and several others whose bodies I once lifted and dumped in a truck. They're all dead. But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world." (O'Brien 225).
This passage seemed like it was significant for a couple different reasons. One thing that made it seem important was due to the fact that it brought everything together. All the stories in which people were killed were concluded in this little paragraph. To me, that was something that brought the whole book together and when he said that someone can still be seen in their stories, I thought that it was a very sweet way of putting why he wrote these stories.
Another reason I thought this passage was really significant was just because of the fact that it went over why he wrote what he wrote. Throughout the story, he was telling us little hints here and there about writing. He says that "stories can save us." This is something that is very important for him since he wrote all these stories. He was not writing them down for us as readers to have something to remember the war. He was writing them down for himself and as a way to remember all that has been lost for him when he was fighting overseas.

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Jeremy M. Barker
04/28/2013 3:27pm

I agree with how you say O'Brien included the stories as a "sweet way" to see someone in the stories. O'Brien never implies anything negative to the people who died, so by mentioning stories with those people, such as Lavender or the slim young man, it is like his way of showing respect. I don't think I'd say he wrote the entire book to recognize specific people who died in Vietnam. Also, I like the way you explain when O'Biren says "stories can save us." When you say "all that has been lost for him" I think of how O'Brien endured so much that destroyed him emotionally and that by telling the stories it even helps him.

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Kaytlynn Toering
04/28/2013 1:43pm

In O’Brien’s novel, the most significant passage is the last vignette “The Lives of the Dead.” One part in particular is the most meaningful: “And yet right here, in the spell of memory and imagination, I can still see her as if through ice, as if I’m gazing into some other world, a place where there are no brain tumors and no funeral homes, where there are no bodies at all. I can see Kiowa, too, and Ted Lavender and Curt Lemon, and sometimes I even see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights. I’m young and happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath my blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story” ( O’Brien 245-246).
This section is very significant because it explains O’Brien’s life story before he goes to Vietnam. His feelings for a young girl in his class are never showcased to her completely before she dies of a brain tumor. At such a young age, O’Brien never knew what true love was or how death affects people. Young Timmy was heartbroken after losing Linda and after he goes to Vietnam, he really understands how horrible death and suffering are. O’Brien tells the readers in this passage that stories are all about imagining something better. He tells readers that as long as they hold onto something, they can write any story about it and that something will stay with the writers for the rest of their lives. Since O’Brien created stories of Linda as a young child, he never forgot her. She still is on his mind and he remembers her. O’Brien shows that death is not the end of everything in life. Something beautiful can actually come out of something as horrible as death.
This applies many places throughout this book. Many vignettes have the word ‘story’ in its title. Basically, the whole book is comprised of his stories from Vietnam. And many of these stories were made-up and based off true things that happened to O’Brien. He was able to go back, and remember some of the good things that happened to him during this rough period in his life. Although they might not have been great experiences, they taught O’Brien lessons. Many of these stories involve those that were killed in Vietnam and O’Brien created stories that would remember them and honor them. In a way, it almost made the deceased look like heroes and happiness surrounded them. Death could not defeat them. Even in his stories, nothing could stop death, and I believed that that idea helped him in the war. The gift of storytelling could always put smiles on faces, and take people away to paradise.

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Rachel Tuller
04/28/2013 7:30pm

I agree with you that this is a very important passage. The part about Linda and O'Brien was a wonderful part to the end of the story. I also like the way you put that last sentence, "The gift of storytelling could always put smiles on faces, and take people away to paradise." I think that is a perfect way to sum up why O'Brien wrote all these stories the way he did.

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Katelyn Tillstrom
04/28/2013 2:35pm

The most significant passage in The Things They Carried, I think is one of the first lines in the chapter titled “The Lives of the Dead.” It says, “They’re all dead. But in a story, which is kind of like dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and look up and return to the world” (O’Brien 225). From here, O’Brien continues to talk about his first love. But throughout that story, he also brings back his war buddies as well. He uses Linda to explain the deaths that he had to go through when he was in the war.
This line really explains O’Brien’s reason for writing the book. Many of the characters that he included in his novel are dead. Ted Lavender, Kiowa, and Norman Bowker. In this statement, O’Brien is saying that his friends come back through his stories, and they are able to live again. Their souls come back to life even though their bodies are gone. Almost the entire book is made up of stories about his friends. He used this to bring them back, not just for him, but for the reader as well.
By the time the reader gets to this point in the book, this definitely seems to get O’Brien’s message of how living in the past can be a good thing, across. Not only does it make it clear as to why he may have written the book, but it ties in some other stories throughout the novel. O’Brien in not the only one who relived what happened in the war, bringing his friends back spiritually. In the chapter “Speaking of Courage,” Norman Bowker also seems to want to talk about it. That whole chapter is him trying to find someone to talk to about the war. Even though some of his buddies are dead, he wants to bring them back to life with a story, any kind of story, which brings up the true war story conflict. It doesn’t matter if it’s fully true. As long as whoever the teller is thinking about can come back to life, that’s all that matters. Therefore, the more stories told about them, the dead will always “smile and look up and return to the world

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Mason Freehling
04/28/2013 2:45pm

I believe the most significant passage in The Things They Carried was at the end of “On the Rainy River.” The passage itself was short, but spoke quite loudly; the exact words were “I was a coward. I went to the war.” To start, this passage may seem confusing by itself, but after reading the corresponding vignette, it becomes clear. The author was deeply against the war, so he ran away almost to Canada. After spending time with an old man at a cabin, he eventually turns back, goes home, and heads off to war.

The reason this passage is significant is because it stands for something greater than ourselves, our beliefs. Though there are many themes to the tales of Vietnam, such as exaggerating is the only way to get the public a true experience, the message in this passage is simple: Stand up for your beliefs. O’brien calls himself a coward because he did something he didn't believe in, but most importantly he didn't run away. Even when it comes to something as serious as draft dodging, what defines a person is how they handle a situation when it challenges their beliefs.

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Zoey Holmstrom
04/28/2013 3:00pm

I really like how you said "The passage itself was short, but spoke quite loudly". I think that's a really valid point. In this passage, the narrator really faces his fears but then is too afraid to defeat them. O'Brien goes through a huge internal conflict here, and that's really important to the development of his character.

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Jeremy M. Barker, The
04/28/2013 3:08pm

In Tim O'Brien's book, the most significant vignette is "Good Form," particularly when he says "I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth" (171). At this point, O'Brien just mentioned that his previous story from "The Man I Killed" was not real. He then goes on to explain that despite him not killing the man, he still felt guilty. O'Brien tells the real event that happened which doesn't say much more than there being bodies everywhere, but the story event brought back the young man. Basically, O'Brien is saying that he tells made up events so that the reader can better feel the same way he felt because the actually event doesn't capture those feelings.

The reason that makes "Good Form" so important is because it explains the motif of extreme stories being more true than believable ones. This motif is first explained in "How to Tell a True War Story" when O'Brien talks about it becomes difficult to separate reality from imagination. The same motif is also shown in "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" since O'Brien says Rat Kiley, the storyteller for this vignette, has a tendency to exaggerate his stories. "Good Form" takes that motif and explains why O'Brien included it. He says "I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth" (171) which is why he included all of the stories throughout the book. O'Brien wanted to let the reader understand what the soldiers of Vietnam felt like. Since The Things They Carried is mostly composed of several different and unbelievable stories, "Good Form" explains the reason for O'Brien writing most of the book.

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Ravi Shah
04/29/2013 3:05am

I also thought that this was quite a striking passage. You do a good job of explaining what O'Brien means by story-truth, and explaining why it is truer than the happening-truth.

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Jacob DeSutter
04/29/2013 3:21am

I see your point in how O'Brien links together different passages to give them meaning, and he later explains himself on why he did that. he tells us why he exaggerated certain parts, and took out others. He gives us stories and later says why there are important.

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Owen Carow
04/29/2013 3:38am

Yes, I loved this aspect of the book. It made it so much more than a collection of war stories. O'Brien makes the literal truth somewhat irrelevant so he can make the points he wants to make. These are great excerpts to lay it all out so you can really understand what the author is trying to do.

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Evan Scieszka
04/28/2013 3:14pm

The most significant passage in The Things They Carried is “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” in this section Rat Kiley tells the story of how Mark Fossie brought his girlfriend to Vietnam and how originally “She had long white legs and blue eyes and a complexion like strawberry ice cream” (O’Brien 93). Originally she is innocence; there is simply nobody more innocent than a 17-year girl with a complexion comparable to strawberry ice cream. Then she joins up with the Green Berets and suddenly the tone changes to describe her as “All camouflaged up, her face smooth and vacant, she seemed to flow like water through the dark … There were times, apparently, when she took crazy, death-wish chances-things even the Greenies balked at” (O’Brien 115). With this transition, much like everything in the war, innocence is lost.
This is the most important section because it deals with one of the most significant parts about Vietnam, the draft. The point that the author makes is that the people sent to Vietnam were not soldiers, mostly just boys, still to young to know true sorrow or death. These boys were completely innocent going into the war and much like Mary Anne they were changed. What the author is showing is the transition from innocence to soldiers, showing little or no emotion, forever changed by the things that they have seen. Much like the story about Mary Anne, these soldiers will go into life having their innocence forever taken and they will never be the same because of Vietnam. This is the most significant passage because so many men had their young lives brutally altered by war, and this passage most powerfully shows this concept.

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Jared
04/28/2013 5:55pm

I felt the same was with how he illustrated the idea of how these soldiers were striped of their life's and forced to be cold killers.

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Kathleen Risk
04/28/2013 7:25pm

This passage was really significant, and you summed it up very well! I had a hard time picking between this passage and the one I wrote about, but since a lot of people were using this one, I decided to use the other one. But the loss of innocence is one of, if not the biggest themes in "The Things They Carried" (sorry can't italicize) and this passage does the best at showcasing it.

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Samir Shah
04/29/2013 5:14am

I really like how you talked about the innocence of the girl in the passage. I especially like how you said, “… the complications of strawberry ice cream” this made I very clear to me that war could easily corrupt the mind of any person. Another thing I liked was how you mentioned all the solders went into the war being young and innocent, but were changed like Mary-Anne was by the end. Nice job.

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Zoey Holmstrom
04/28/2013 3:41pm

There are many important passages in The Things They Carried, but the most important is “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”. In this vignette, Rat Kiley is telling a story of a soldier who flies over his girlfriend from the United States. She “was good for morale” (O’Brien 95). Mary Anne is adored by all of the men because of her beauty, but as the weeks go on, she goes through a complete character change. During the duration she stays at the site, she begins to take part in the same activities as the men do. She helps the medical team and she goes off on a couple of ambushes. She even starts to let go of her hygiene and stops wearing makeup and cut her hair short (O’Brien 98). This change causes immense tension between her and her boyfriend, and he attempts to set her straight. After sending her home, however, Mary Anne flies back and begins to go out on ambushes secretly without her boyfriend knowing. Finally, the desperate man goes to find her, discovering that she is not going to stay by his side again. When the soldier asks Rat to do something, Rat replies with, “Man, you must be deaf. She’s already gone” (O’Brien 112). Eventually, Rat ends the story with her disappearance, and she is never heard of or seen again.
This story is significant because the rest of the book can be compared to it. The Things They Carried is simply many passages describing different perspectives on the war. In “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, O’Brien shows how easily a person can be changed by such an event and how their perspective can change. In just three short weeks, Mary Anne went from being an ordinary girl from Ohio to a woman in combat in the Vietnam War. The overall theme is that war can drastically change a person in a short amount of time. Motifs found in the vignette are the description of Mary Anne’s eyes. They are described in the text as “seeming to glow” (96), “narrowing into a tight, intelligent focus” (98), “fixed on the dark” (99), “opaque” (105), and “a bright glowing jungle green” (106). The description of her eyes displays the transformation that she went through during her time in Vietnam. Descriptions of eyes are repeated throughout the book to bring more feeling and detail to the text. This passage relates to the rest of the book in it’s theme, motifs, and the overall message.

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04/28/2013 7:12pm

Wow, your analysis of the eyes pointed out very strong points of the book. The choices the author made with Mary Anne, her transformation, were undoubtably wise. That whole vignette brought the book together, and Mary Anne herself is such an unforgettable character, similar to how unforgettable this war was.

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Jordon Young
04/28/2013 9:20pm

Wow. Nice citations Zoey!

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Marcus Shannon
04/28/2013 3:55pm

“But in a story I can steal her soul. I can revive, at least briefly, that which is absolute and unchanging. In a story, miracles can happen.” ( O’Brien 224).
The most significant passage in The Things They Carried would have to be the entire vignette “The Lives of the Dead”. This section describes his feeling towards the dead, with his grade school love Linda, and the man in Vietnam. Later discussing Ted Lavender, Curt Lemon, and Kiowa and how he keeps them alive by creating a story. This type of situation happened throughout the entirety of the book and telling stories over and over. Creating stories to think of a friend who’s passed created a place where the good could always be remembered. Soldiers were able to escape by telling stories as the person is still alive, and give them an immortality of being alive in their stories. O’Brien wants to show how creating these nonexistent memories can help soldiers cope with what they’re doing, and what’s happening to others around them.
Soldiers needed to find something to handle what was happening, and O’Brien tactic was creating these stories. Throughout the book a dominant motif was how everyone reacted to others dying. Jokes were made, songs were sung when cleaning Curt Lemon, and dead citizens had their hands shaken. These all are just different mediums that do the same thing as thinking of someone in a story. It keeps the person alive to the individual and that was the overlying message throughout the book. This motif of storytelling is able to voice O’Brien’s opinion on how stories are not so heavily focused on exact remembrance, but being able to reconcile with past emotions.

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Kylie Wermund
04/28/2013 7:23pm

I love this line that you quoted. I think that it really shows how O'Brien feels about making up stories and it is very important pertaining to the book and the stories in it.

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Jared Wendland
04/28/2013 6:05pm

I found the most significant section of The Things They Carried to be “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”. In this section Rat Kiley shares the story of a soldiers shipping in of his girlfriend form Ohio to Vietnam. Mary Ann was an innocent girl to begin with. He describes her as “a kid, just barely out of high school” (O’Brien 86). But as time progressed her innocence began to fade, replaced with a fixation. An obsession that eventually is destructive to her relationship and her mind.
This section most applies to the book as a whole as it speaks to the books theme of the effects of this war. Her transformation directly connects to the reality that often happened with soldiers. They describe her as “a kid, just barely out of high school” and the facts are most soldiers were the same thing (O’Brien 86). Soldiers had their innocents striped from them and were in many cases forced to suppress emotion. Rat Kiley states “You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it’s never the same” (O’Brien 109).Theses facts connect with the rest of the text as soldiers find assimilating back in to the civilian world difficult. They had to find their emotions again. It also connects with Rat Kileys difficulty with emotion while still over in Vietnam. When reading this book, readers can better understand this reality. The author is trying to get across through this extreme event, using this story truth to make a message clearer.

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Michael Gorton
04/28/2013 8:04pm

I completely agree with what you're saying here. This passage is extremely powerful, and utilizes story truth to its maximum effect.

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04/28/2013 7:06pm

A striking section of the book was How to Tell a True War Story. I was really taken by the description of Curt Lemon’s death and how he called it “almost beautiful” on page 70. A significant passage to me was on page 82: “Often in a true war story there is not even a point, or else the point doesn’t hit you until twenty years later, in your sleep, and you wake up and shake your wife and start telling the story to her, except when you get to the end you’ve forgotten the point again. And then for a long time you lie there watching the story happen in your head. You listen to your wife’s breathing. The war’s over. You close your eyes. You smile and think, Christ, what’s the point?” Then the narrator goes on to say how Curt Lemon’s death still wakes him up because of how brutal it was, but also how Dave Jensen sang as they collected pieces of Lemon’s body, making the memory more tormenting.
This passage stood out to me because I could really sense from the way the narrator spoke, how upsetting and essentially haunting war images can be, even after the war is over and done with. In addition, the narrator captures the death of Curt Lemon from two perspectives, which is impressive. Previously, on page 80, he hones in on the grace of Curt’s death. It was so sudden because he was just messing around, playing catch with Rat Kiley, smiling, trying to find a small diversion while fighting a war. The narrator talks about the sunlight and other details and saves the gruesome vivid stuff for later. On page 83, he goes all the way, naming individual parts of Lemon that were scattered around the site of the explosion. The narrator’s blatancy was unsettling, especially since there was a lot of pathos revealed about Lemon, such as him being a close friend of Rat Kiley’s. Just think how hard it would be to try to picture a friend blown up, in pieces. At the snap of a finger, they went from playing catch with grenades to dying. It is unfathomable. I couldn’t even imagine coping with having that happen to my friend, or even witnessing it at all. Later in the book, it is mentioned that Rat and Curt were like twin brothers, really close. His death was so heartbreaking, even to me, and I am just reading about it. Curt Lemon never really existed, I know, but there were people who did exist that past away that way. It is even more tragic because they should not have even been in that war to begin with, in my opinion.
When the narrator says, what’s the point, he may be addressing that it is just a tragic loss, simply put, and not much more than that. There is nothing to learn from the war story, it is just a story. I can understand that, but also war is so unnatural, exploding stuff is unnatural, and there is no good way to define it. The Vietnam War was generally an unclear war, which may help explain why the narrator’s stories couldn’t be pegged down as one thing or another. The lines were blurred. Part of it is that the soldiers want to block it out. I don’t blame them.

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Kaity Wade
04/28/2013 7:06pm

The most significant passage in The Things They Carried was the following excerpt in “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” In this passage O’Brien says, "What happened to her, Rat said, was what happened to all of them. You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it's never the same. A question of degree. Some make it intact, some don't make it at all. For Mary Anne Bell, it seemed, Vietnam had the effect of a powerful drug: that mix of unnamed terror and unnamed pleasure that comes as the needle slips in and you know you're risking something" (O'Brien 109).

In this passage, Rat Kiley is telling the story of Mary Anne Bell, the 17 year old girlfriend of soldier Mark Fossie, who is brought over to Vietnam to keep Fossie Company but ends up getting pulled into the rush of the war. She loses her innocence, disappears in the Jungle of Vietnam, leaving all that she once dreamed and talked about behind her. O’Brien had her represent all of the young, naive people that came over into the war in Vietnam. It was such foreign territory that it made them crazy; it became almost like a drug to them. They lost their innocence, and were never really able to fully recover. However, this passage not only shows how the war took people, it shows through Mark Fossie’s character how much it hurt to lose someone to the war, as many of them did.

From beginning to end, O’Brien talks about how much the war changes people. He shares stories of buddies like Kiowa and Curt Lemon and Ted Lavender dying, not getting the chance to make it back. He shares stories of the men in his unit who have made it home and lost their sweethearts, men such as Norman Bowker who couldn’t handle regular life after the war. He even describes in the last couple chapters his desire to go back, and when he does, he wants to basically relive in his head all of the things that happened to him. Being a soldier in the Vietnam War is an experience that changes a person at their very core, and O’Brien shows that in almost all of the vignettes in his book. Consequently, that passage sums up all of those stories into one common theme. It demonstrates through Mary Anne’s loss of innocence, and disappearance and Mark Fossie’s devastation how once someone goes into Vietnam, they are either never coming back and breaking the hearts of those that loved them, or they are coming back a very changed person.

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Kylie Wermund
04/28/2013 7:20pm

"'You're in a place,' Mary Anne said softly, 'where you don't belong.' She moved her hand in a gesture that encompassed not just the hootch but everything around it, the entire war, the mountains, the mean little villages, the trails and trees and rivers and deep misted-over valleys" (O'Brien 11).

At this point in the book. O'Brien writes of a soldier in Vietnam who flies his girlfriend over to visit. She arrives very innocent and bubbly, but overtime turns into a cold-hearted soldier. Not only that, but she tells her boyfriend that he is in a place that he doesn't belong. This is kind of ironic. A young girl is in the middle of a war and she tells a soldier that he is the one who doesn't belong there.

All throughout the book up until this point, O'Brien has given examples of how the war has changed people, how it is brutal and forces the men there to change in order to cope with it. This passage about Mary Anne Bell very effectively expresses this point. Young girls are naturally viewed as more innocent than boys. So, by telling the story of this young girl, O'Brien proves that the war can make a killer out of the most innocent and previously harmless people.

This short section about Mary Anne expresses O'Brien's overall messsage of how war affects everyone involved. The passage is very striking. The fact that Mary Anne eventually runs away really pulls it all together. It symbolizes how many were lost during the war. Not necessarilly physically, but mentally and emotionally. This striking passage truly expresses the full effect of the war.

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Gunner Harrison
04/29/2013 10:07am

This is a very good point, and an interesting story in the book. This was the point that shows the change, and it was a good choice for the important passage.

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Kathleen Risk
04/28/2013 7:20pm

“Speaking of Courage” was the most significant passage to me. It is about Norman Bowker’s life after the war, and how he doesn’t really know what to do or where he’s going. He’s just driving around a lake and can’t talk to anyone about his experiences. This passage just seems to sum up what the Vietnam War has done to the veterans psychologically. Bowker can’t get past the war, especially about what happened in the shit field, which is shown by how much he brings it up. Over and over, he talks about how he almost won a silver medal by almost saving Kiowa, which shows he cannot get over that specific event, as well as many others. His repeatedly bringing up the silver medal also shows his inability to talk about the war – he keeps having imaginary conversations with many people because he desperately wants to, but cannot. This is especially shown when he says “The town could not talk, and would not listen. ‘How’d you like to hear about the war?’ he might’ve asked, but the place could only blink and shrug” (O’Brien 143). Bowker felt isolated from everyone and unable to communicate with them effectively, which made him incapable of coping with his memories.
With no coping mechanism, Norman Bowker was going nowhere in life, just going in circles, both literally and figuratively simply because he could not move past the war. His feelings are pretty much summed up by the opening line: “The war was over and there was no place in particular to go” (O’Brien 137). His perceived uselessness drove him to hang himself. All of this shows how big of an impact the war had on the veterans lives and just how hard it was to move on. They could never go back to their previous lives, like Bowker tried. They had to be either stuck in Vietnam forever or make an entire new life.

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Alex Miller
04/28/2013 7:32pm

I love how Kathleen mentions how Norman Bowker was just living in circles and never really getting anywhere. In the passage there was repetition of things that made the rest of the passage felt like a circle as well, like how Bowker keeps mentioning that he could have received one more medal over and over again. Kathleen tuned in to that by mentioning this passage and how some veterans did not get over the war.

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Kelsey
04/28/2013 7:35pm

I really like your last sentence. I feel like that really sums up the vignette.

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Alex Miller
04/28/2013 7:28pm

"Vietnam had the effect of a powerful drug: that mix of unnamed terror and unnamed pleasure that comes as the needle slips in and you know you're risking something. The endorphins start to flow, and the adrenaline, and you hold your breath and creep quietly through the moonlit nightscapes; you become intimate with danger; you're in touch with the far side of yourself, as though it's another hemisphere, and you want to string it out and go wherever the trip takes you and be host to all the possibilities inside yourself" (O' Brien 114).
The excerpt is from "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" and is the most significant section of The Things They Carried. The excerpt is describing the feeling that overwhelms the body during combat and in Vietnam itself. An example of this is Mary Anne Bell, she had lost her innocence so quickly when she arrived in Vietnam and became addicted to combat. She hangs out with the Greenies and starts to become another soldier. She becomes a different person such as the other young men involved in combat during the war being of the adrenaline rush that took over her body during certain duties.
The excerpt describes the war but, more specifically the soldiers involved in it. The men were not really even men yet when they were sent off and grew up very quickly. The excerpt helps describe what went through the soldier's bodies during a raid, battle, or bombing. It defines the feeling of what it really is like during the war and what the war is, it is just bursts of adrenaline that seem like a drug; that comes and goes and may not be the safest thing, but pleasant in the same instance. The drug causes hunger for more and that can only be satisfied in war. In a way, it made the soldiers get to know themselves in the war, a whole other side to them that would have never came out without the war. O' Brien describes a feeling like no other and makes "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" more significant than the other passages.

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Kelsey Berndt
04/28/2013 7:30pm

The most important passage of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is the "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" vignette. This is the vignette where the soldier, Mark Fossie, flies in his girlfriend, Mary Anne Bell. The war affects Mary Anne very much as Rat Kiley explains "What happened to her...was what happened to all of them. You come over clean and you get dirty and afterward it's never the same" (114). This sums up half of meow the reason this vignette is the most significant.
Mary Anne is simply a symbol of all soldiers who went to Vietnam, or any war for that matter. Vietnam hardened Mary Anne just like it hardened thousands of other innocent Americans. It doesn't even matter if Mary Anne is real or if O'Brien just thought her up, because the purpose of O'Brien putting Mary Anne's story in to show what war does to people. This vignette also portrays story truth, because, like previously stated, it doesn't matter if this is what happened or not because it's just what O'Brien needs the reader to know about war. Happening truth doesn't matter in this vignette.

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Carley Grau
04/29/2013 3:47am

This does in face sum up half of meow the reason the vignette is significant! hahaha kelsey. I agree though, I also chose this vignette as the most significant because of the way it shows how war affects all the soldiers who go.

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Zach Grover
04/28/2013 7:43pm

“As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” (65-6).
In The things they carried the most important passage is “How to Tell a True War Story”. Why? Because this is where we learned that to O’Brien, “War is Hell, but that’s not the half of it…” (80). We learn the full extent to which war can drive a man mad, as we see when Rat Kiley kills the baby buffalo with such intense emotion, and the detail that O’Brien writes it in makes it all the more haunting.” It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.”(75). That really sums it up, with this one sentence it makes you reflect on the entire story and you realize that the pure honesty of this story makes you believe.
O’Brien’s theme in this vignette is that war is so crazily unbelievable that you have to believe it because no one can make it up. This story also tells the most of the, it explains how unrealistically realistic war is. Then it explains the deepest depths of war when it talks about the buffalo and how ones anger can turn on anything. It shows the emotional struggle we must all face, as he talks of the letters. And he tells of the loss, and pure horror one can see, when he so graphically describes Curt Lemon’s body being scattered all over the field.
And then O’Brien makes his most important statement “It wasn't a war story. It was a love story.” (81).

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Michael Gorton
04/28/2013 8:01pm

Out of all of the passages, "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" is without a doubt the most significant. O'Brien does an excellent job of getting the readers to understand his purpose for writing this book through the example of Mary Anne. In this chapter, Mary Anne arrives in Vietnam coming from a sheltered life and quickly becomes too interested in the war. Before anyone could stop her, it was too late, and as Rat had to tell Mark Fossie, "She's already gone" (O'Brien 107). Soon after, she is consumed by the war, never to be seen or heard from again.
Throughout the book, O'Brien aims to help people understand how war affects those who witness it. It changes people, just like it changed Mary Anne. She is used as a symbol of how war can alter the way of thinking of all who witness it. This section also does a great job of showing how grim and sad war can truly be. Mary Anne also symbolizes the fact that innocent people are sent to fight in wars as gruesome as the one in Vietnam. This helps readers better grasp the concept of what war is like, and how unforgiving it can be.

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04/28/2013 8:34pm

I agree with you about how it changes people, but I do not think it shows us what war really is like. I think he used this passage to get the "Story truth" out, not the actual truth. I don't think it is possible to have a girl go from a normal kid to a green beret in three weeks or so... it just doesn't happen.

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Courtney Bennett
04/28/2013 8:15pm

I believe the most significant passage in The Things They Carried is in "The Lives of The Dead". O'Brien is in the midst of describing a personal experience with death as a boy. After Linda dies, he wills himself to enter a dream where she is alive once more and she asks him why he is so sad. After he tells her that the reason for his sadness is her death, O’Brien writes “Linda smiled. It was a secret smile, as if she knew things nobody could ever know, and she reached out and touched my wrists and said “Timmy, stop crying. It doesn’t matter”’ (O’Brien 238).
Even though this is not the very last paragraph of the book, there is a definite finality in the way that O’Brien seems to be wrapping up his driving message here. The whole story of Linda in “The Lives of The Dead” serves as a metaphor about the soldier’s attitude about the war and the basis for which O’Brien discovers the value of preservation through writing. However, in this passage alone, there seem to be many meanings that relate to multiple prevailing themes. O’Brien wrote earlier that he can save Linda’s life, rather than her body, by writing about her (O’Brien 236). That is essentially what he is doing by fabricating a dream. He does the same thing throughout the entire book with his war buddies. As long as someone is reading about them, they never truly die. Additionally, Linda’s smile suggests the answers and solutions to questions that O’Brien, both as a child and an adult, could not possibly understand because they are too incomprehensible for humans to even begin to fathom. This relates to the whole “why” theme present throughout the novel. It stands for certain unanswerable questions such as “Why was O’Brien drafted?”, “What is the war’s purpose?”, and “Why did certain men need to die?”. Finally, Linda reprimands “Timmy” for crying and tells him that it doesn’t matter that she is dead. This is significant because it symbolizes moving forward in life. Linda is telling O’Brien that yes, she is dead, but not to cry about it. Instead of dwelling on the actuality of death, O’Brien can preserve her life through his vignette. Similarly, he can preserve the lives of soldiers and his experiences of Vietnam through The Things They Carried.

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04/28/2013 8:29pm

This book has so many touching stories in it, but the one that I think is the best is in "Stockings". O'Brien tells us about how Henry Dobbins is untouchable because of his girlfriend's stockings that he keeps tied around his neck. He tipped a mine off that didn't detonate, and he was caught in a crossfire without receiving a scratch, all because of the pantyhoes. Not only does he turn into a believer of their luck, but the entire platoon.Then his girlfriend dumps him which is a huge blow to anyone overseas, but "then after a time, he took out the stockings and tied them around his neck as a comforter. "No sweat" he said, "The magic doesn't go away"".
This is my favorite part because it shows how even in the ugly parts of war, people turn the worst situations into good ones simply by changing their attitude. It keeps the reader sane too, Henry Dobbins is a great character, and if he was emotionally ruined, the audience would be as well. It really shows us all sides of the war in just one paragraph. The enemy is present, he carries the weight of the break up, but he carries hope as well.

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Kathleen Janeschek
04/28/2013 8:36pm

The most significant passage came from the section "On the Rainy River," pages 57-59, where O'Brien describes everyone cheering him on one way or the other as he tries to decide whether to run off or go to war. That description, along with his resignation to go to war, stand as the most powerful passage. For in it, he captures the feeling and the pressure and cowardice and bravery, and the emotion of everything-- of war and love, of life and sadness. There are other sections of the book that touch on these things, that might describe them in greater detail, but none capture all of it, none capture not only all of war, but all of life. It might seem like a better passage would be one actually describing the war or Vietnam, but as O'Brien himself says, "a true war story is never about war" (85).

They Things They Carried is not a simple war story, it is so much more, it is so more grand. This passage proves it. Here, he describes the past and the future, from Linda to the man he killed. Everyone he has ever met is here, and people he hasn't met, people he just knows of came too. They all came and his whole life is spread before him. This right here, is not a war story, it's his life's story, it's everything that has ever happened to him and everything that ever will. It's a moment that captures everything. But at the same time, while it is all so not about the war-- it's about the war. It's about why people fight and the idea of embarrassment being the great motivator. It's about how going to war is not always brave, sometimes it's weak. A major theme of this book is the embarrassment of the soldier, and here he describes that idea, that moment when he was a coward perfectly. All his life spread before him, and he can't run off, because someone might talk or judge. He can't take that. He's weak.

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Evan Pille
04/29/2013 12:42pm

I think you have a point here. " A true war story is never about war" really does explain what was going on in "On the Rainy River. There was a lot expresses in this passage that encompassed his entire life and everything that came later. Truly significant.

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Jordon Young
04/28/2013 9:18pm

In The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, the most significant passage is the sentence, in "Good Form," that reads: "I want them to feel what I felt,"(172). It is the main reason why the author wrote the book. Expanding into this section, O'Brien clears up the fact that most of the previous stories were fabrications on minor truths and explains that the only way to make the reader feel what he felt is to spice up the truth, but he says that "Story-truth" can be more true than "Happening-truth" if it is used to convey the feeling the author intends better.
This sentence is the main theme of the entire book, that's why it's significant. The message the author is trying to convey through his partially true and untrue stories is about how he felt in Vietnam AND a message to writers: show, don't tell. It is not, by any means, the most telling section of the book, but it brings another level of understanding about the author. He could have left out every section to do with his enhancements and inspirations, and it would have been perfectly believable. No one would have questioned the validity of his experiences. However, O'Brien inserted his message of showing vs. telling throughout the book, expanding upon it until the climax in "Good Form." In "Good Form," the author shows the audience the secret of his magic trick. He wouldn't have been able to make us feel what he wanted us to by telling us what actually happened. Ironically, without this section, the piece wouldn't have been so real. What the soldiers felt was real, even if it may have actually happened differently. It doesn't matter if the war stories are true, he shared part of what he felt, and as the readers, we felt it too.

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S D Johnson
04/29/2013 5:38am

Your take is very interesting in that you understood the story as in his journey to making the reader understand as apposed to Tim's journey through Vietnam, That the main theme of the book isnt showing the audience suffering but to show them understanding.

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Ravi Shah
04/29/2013 3:00am

"'You're in a place,' Mary Anne said softly, 'where you don't belong" (111). This is a part of "The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong," when Mary Anne has joined up with the Greenies, and tells the others that they don't understand the truth about Vietnam. This is the point in the chapter where the readers know that any innocence that Mary Anne, and the soldiers, may have had left is gone. It shows how powerful the war could be in changing those who became a part of it.

This section of the book shows how gruesome a war can truly be, and how much it can change a person. Mary Anne, being an innocent girl from the states, represented the change that took place in all of the soldiers. And it shows how easy it is for anyone to get caught up in a war, in the excitement. O'Brien talks about soldiers going through changes throughout the entire book, but this section is definitely the most striking.

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Evan Kiel
04/29/2013 3:47am

I like the part about the getting caught up in the war and also the whole part in general. This did show all of the change in the soldiers.

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Jacob DeSutter
04/29/2013 3:17am

"The Things They Carried " by Tim O'Brien is full of powerful passages, but the one the stuck the most was on page 80, where O'Brien talks about "True War Stories", and how "War is hell, but that's not the half of it. because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is thrilling, was is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead. The truths are contradictory. It can be argued, for instance, that war is grotesque. But in truth war is also beauty." This little block of text hold everything that he is saying, and boils it down. The war love, between mark Fossie and Mary Ann, between Curt Lemon and Rat Kiley. There was mystery and terror, From living the night life in Vietnam, and there was longing there too. There was longing in Tim to go back to the front, and some of his feeling that war was "fun. But he also showed it was nasty, when he was shot and Bobby Jorgeson couldn't treat him. That moment made Bobby a man, but it also almost made Tim dead. One thing can be done in war, and have several others things occur. There is beauty on watching VC position being bombarded by tracers and napalm, but it is grotesque to clean up in the morning. A new person can be engaged in the thrill of combat, until its time to face the man who died from a foreigner. War might just be the rear, after being shot twice. War is all these things at once, and that's why this passage shows of thew heart of ?The Things They Carried"

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David Tarnowski
04/29/2013 3:24am

The most significant passage out of Tim O' Brien's book is, "How To Tell A True War Story." Throughout the entire passage, O' Brien offers details on how to tell a true war story. More than that however, he offers a look at the realities behind war itself.

"A true war story is never moral" (68). With this he offers the fact that war is never a moral thing. Sure, some people say that they're fighting against terrorism and others will say that they're fighting for democracy, but bottom line there is nothing moral about killing other human beings.

"In any war story, but especially a true one, it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen" (71). This sentence reflects that confusion war brings about. I can only imagine that there is mass chaos when you're being shot upon, both internally and externally. This was especially true in the Vietnam War because it was difficult for soldiers to tell who was the enemy and who wasn't.

"Often in a true war story there is not even a point..." (82). This reflects on the fact that many times people go into war without reflecting on the why or how. In the case of the Vietnam War, there was never any real point in fighting the war. They simply went from village to village burning and killing.

These four specific passages within "How To Tell A True War Story" offer insight into the uncertainty and brutality of war. I'm not sure if Tim O' Brien meant for there to be a parallel between war stories and war, but I am going to take a hunch that there is.

This vignette is significant to the book as a whole because it offers information to digest the entire time you're reading the rest of the book. It offers information that not only enhances your further reading, but also involves you in it on a deeper level. One can apply what they read in this vignette to any of the other chapters, and at the same time get something much more out of each vignette.

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David Tarnowski
04/29/2013 3:28am

Oh I almost forgot...

The rest of the vignette is equally important because throughout it Tim offers short stories that not only enhance what he is trying to tell the reader, but also give a better understanding of the war.

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Lauren Clem
04/29/2013 4:47am

I agree with your reflection on the book. I really like how you were able to find many different quotes from the section that proved that this is the most significant passage.

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Danielle Curley
04/29/2013 3:25am

The most significant passage in The Things They Carried is “Lives of the Dead”, it’s the last passage. It says “But this too is true: stories can save us. I’m forty-three years old, and a writer now, and even still, right here, I keep dreaming Linda alive. And Ted Lavender, too, and kiowa, and Curt Lemon, and a slim young boy I killed, and an old man sprawled out beside a pig pen, and several others whose bodies I once lifted and dumped into a truck. They’re all dead…All day long I’d been picturing Linda’s face, the way she smiled… the thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is an illusion of aliveness. In Vietnam for instance, Ted Lavender had a habit of popping four or five tranquilizers every morning… I remember how peaceful his eyes were…that’s what a story does. The bodies are animated, You make the dead talk…Even now I can see her walking down the aisle of the old state theatre…I’m forty-three years old, and a writer now, still dreaming Linda alive.
In “Lives of the Dead” the narrator talks about how people cope with loss. He tells about his early days in Vietnam when the other soldiers would make jokes when someone died to deal with it. He also tells us about Linda, a nine year old girl whom he was once deeply in love with. Linda was his first date but eventually she died of a brain tumor. He still trys to keep her alive though by dreaming her alive and all the others that have died.
This is significant to the book because the book is The Things They Carried and the first chapter is about what everybody carried physically and emotionally. The last chapter shows what the narrator carries. He carries the dead with him, he keeps them alive in his head. He carried Linda, Kiowa, Curt Lemon and others he saw dead.

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Owen Carow
04/29/2013 3:35am

"I saw faces from my distant past and distant future. My wife was there. My unborn daughter waved at me, and my two sons hopped up and down, and a drill sergeant sneered and shot up a finger and shook his head. There was a choir in bright purple robes. There was a cabbie from the Bronx. There was a slim young man I would one day kill with a hand grenade outside the village of My Khe (56)."
This passage from "On the Rainy River" takes place when the narrator is in the small boat with Elroy Berdahl, torn between abandoning his country for Canada or letting the draft take him to a war he did not agree with. As he is about to make his decision he sees the figures of various people from throughout his life on the shore, all trying to tell him which way to go. In the end, he breaks down in favor of staying for the draft.
This passage is the most significant from The Things They Carried because it not only shows O'Brien's perspective on the war, but on his life itself. The aspect of societal pressure forcing him to go to war is rarely heard, and probably difficult to tell. Even more than that, the author includes people on the shore from all periods of his life, including the future. Some people would not have even cared if he went to war. The reason they are all there is to summarize his life, to judge if going to the war was really worth it in the end. As O'Brien writes about his life and the decisions he made, he is thinking of not only the war, but his childhood, or his family. He looks at them all from the boat, and is unable to just give them all up, his wife, friends, even the man he killed, even if it meant he had to experience the war in the first place. The passage is the most significant because it answers why O'Brien is still writing about the Vietnam War: it's his life now.

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Carley Grau
04/29/2013 3:44am

The most important passage of this book was "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong." (114). In this passage one of the soldiers flies his girlfriend out into Vietnam to keep him company. His girlfriend is sweet and bubbly and nice. Through out her stay she changes and by the end she is a completely different person, unrecognizable by her boyfriend anymore. Her whole personality has disappeared, never to be seen again.
Mary Anne represents the way war changes people. She stands for all the different types of personalities that change through out the war. This passage is significant because it helps readers understand that war truly changes people no matter what they are like. It shows how a persons personality can flip completely and their personality can be left behind in Vietnam forever, like Mary Anne. It's important to the book as a whole so that readers understand the way war has a way of changing the soldiers, even if it doesn't seem as though they have changed very much.

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Evan Kiel
04/29/2013 3:44am

"The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong" seems to best summarize the war and how terrible and life changing it truly was. It showed the corruption of these soldiers in general through the story of this girl. She started out innocent then the war took hold and she became no longer human she was a monster on the hunt seeking the thrill of the kill. This showed how it had destroyed all these people inside they to the point of mocking the dead like where they shake hands with the old man and talk to him (214). They all had been somewhat innocent at some point, this story just shows it quickly as almost a legend of this girl who was flown into the country.

In the passage many things happen that show how the soldiers feel about this war and being there in that terrible place. One example is when Fossie says "Mary Anne, I cant find her" (95). This shows there sense of losing everything, they are in this other country with these terrible things happening all around them, they have almost no contact with the outside world and now this jungle is taking away the one thing that this man had held so dear and really made him human again. Later Fossie says " That voice, Mary Anne" he is still clinging to hope that she is still there somewhere inside the special forces tent and that he can have that innocent girl back (104). The soldiers desperately want the innocent life they had before back. They want to be out of this place and home where there is no killing no death, and maybe a sense that there hands are not bloody from this war and the killing, they want to escape from the memories and maybe have them never happen in the first place. What Mary Anne said to Fossie is one of the most striking points " You're in a place, where you don't belong" (106). This passage shows the feelings of the solider most directly, they didn't feel like they should be in this place most of them had no choice, they were drafted to serve. This made them feel like they shouldn't be there and that it was not right.

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Justin Marutz
04/29/2013 4:27am

I really like how you state that the soldiers feel like they were forced to be there and it felt unnatural while with Mary Anne she embraced it and loved it this sweet innocent little girl.

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Richard Harris.
04/29/2013 5:29am

I had very similar feelings as you, Evan. Your comments about the vignette and war are very true.

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Justin Marutz
04/29/2013 4:26am

The most significant passage in this entire book would have to be "On the Rainy River". Just about a young adult being forced to go to a war he doesn't want to. Eventually leaving to not bring about dishonor or shame to his name. Though the real importance of this chapter is how he comes to this conclusion. All the hidden comparisons and every detail gotten just right. Eventually how even though his own decision to go, was cowardice.

Throughout this passage O'Brien puts so much into it. From whether it be the old man is truly his own conscious or not, due to rarely speaking or a kind old man who understands the guys troubles, really adds a layer of depth when interpreting. Even stating he was "a silent watchful presence "(O'Brien 46). His literal and psychological battle on the boat getting so close to freedom though deciding to go back, this humongous crowd of people some dead and some he didn't know or exist yet all rooting for him to go to one side, but how in the end it was his decision (O'Brien 56). How this whole chapter it could all be figurative, the man, the money, perhaps it was him at his job day-dreaming about a choice, a single choice that would change his life forever. It also brings about what true courage is, more than heroics, but something bigger (O'Brien 38). How he hated the war because he didn't know why it happened truly or what they were fighting for, hating the draft and just wanting an escape, though it was something he never got.

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Lauren Clem
04/29/2013 4:45am

In the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the random, yet important sections of the book carry messages that are relayed through old war stories and life struggles from the Vietnam War. With that in mind, the section, “How to Tell a True War Story” is the most significant passage in the entire book because of the impact it can leave on readers. This section muddles with the perspectives on many different topics; life in the war, the stories, and how the war affected many young men afterward are all topics that are altered in the minds of the readers.
This section in particular, regardless of content, is very striking because of the way many different readers can conceive the interpretations of war stories. This is one of the longer sections in the story, proving that it is written more in depth than the others. One can quickly realize that this section is not only discussing the importance of storytelling, but is also its own story within this section itself. As he is trying to retell the story of Rat Kiley and Curt Lemon in the war, he casually pauses in many places as if he wasn’t sure how to say the story word for word, but still tries to explain it on a personal level. This writing style is an example of a war story; there is confusion, there is honesty, but in a way, there is pain and sorrow that comes and alters the truth to make it feel that nothing is ever the actual truth (78). This shows how personal this section is to the narrator and how hard he tries to connect with the readers by showing the struggles of war through an intriguing story.
With that in mind, O’Brien also repeats numerous times that war stories should not be life-changing. As he lists war story after war story, his memories of the harsh times come flooding back to his present self. The narrator states the truth about telling war stories by saying “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done” (65). This motif is mentioned throughout pauses in the Kiley and Lemon story, within that smaller story, and also in different places in the entire book. War stories bring back the memories, the agony and the dead, and plays with the truth to make what really happened and what one wants to happen blend into one story. A true war story isn’t told to benefit the listener, it is told to comfort the teller, because he is the one experiencing the entire war again as he tells it.

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Samir Shah
04/29/2013 5:09am

The most significant section of the book, “The Things they Carry” by Tim O’Brien would have to be, “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” In this section, one of the solders girlfriends comes to visit her soon to be husband. The story is told from the point of view of Rat Kiley, who shows the narrator and his squad how this girls, Mary-Anne, changed in the time she was in Vietnam. He describes the girl as barely out of high school, and shows that she was an innocent young woman who was interested by everything in the country. Rat Kiley shows how she picks up some tricks and helps the men out. It’s not long however until she goes on her first ambush mission with the special ops. From this point on she is changed. Her blood thirst for war overwhelms her. Kiley describes her wearing a, “necklace of human tongues” (110) just a little after going on missions with the Special Forces. This section mostly shows how an innocent girl from the United States can change so much in just the short time of being in the country of Vietnam.
This is the most important section in the book because it shows how people can change in a time of war. When people think about the mental mindset of Vietnam, they never think about how hard it really is to maintain sanity. The author adds this section to show how it was a mental struggle for anyone to stay the same. One of the reasons he uses a young innocent girl is to show how anyone can change from the war, not just solders. Another reason that shows this is an important passage is that the girl never had shot a gun before she arrived. She never experienced death or battle, but could still be corrupted by just being in an environment where that could happen. Through the ideas expressed in “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” the author shows the true hell of war, and that anyone can be corrupted by Vietnam, thus is it the most important section.

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Richard Harris
04/29/2013 5:27am

I thought the most significant passage came out of "The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong." This vignette is about how O'Brien listens to Rat Kiley's story about a fellow soldier who brought his girlfriend to the base he was stationed at. As she spent more time at the base, she changed from a seventeen year old girl to a warfighter as effective as the Army SF (Greenies) stationed at the same base. The vignette ends with, "She was wearing her culottes, her pink sweater, and a necklace of tongues. She was dangerous. She was ready for the kill." The vignette shows how war breaks someone down and rebuilds them as a completely different person.

Mary Anne was innocent and peaceful before arriving in Vietnam. She changed more and more as the desire to see what was outside that base. She became violent, a killer, like the other infantrymen serving in Vietnam. Using a civilian female, instead of any other grunt in the military, shows how radical of a change a soldier in war can experience, which makes the passage (and vignette) much more powerful.

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S D Johnson
04/29/2013 5:34am

The most important passage in The Things They Carried was is in the chapter “In the Field”. In this chapter O’Brien and the platoon sweep the muddy waters for Kiowa in the Shit Field from the battle the night before when Kiowa had been just sucked down under the mud when a mortar round turned up whatever solid ground he had around him. The troops locate and after a lot of hard work are able to dig his corpse up out of the mud. The man who had accompanied Kiowa and feels a large guilt for not being able to save him, fishes through the mud looking for the picture of his girl Billie from back home. Cross is standing watching his men sweep the field as he preoccupies his thoughts with Kiowa’s death and how it is his fault. This chapter is very fat in that it covers so many of the Vietnam wars qualities.
The most important passage is Norman Baker’s father’s response to his son’s story when Norman says “The truth, is I let the guy go,” and when his father responds “Maybe he was already gone” (153.) This book isn’t as much about the things they carry as much as it is about the things that they left behind. Norman’s father is trying to tell him that Kiowa’s death wasn’t his fault and that maybe he was dead before he was sucked under. The passage also explains to the reader that maybe Kiowa was gone the second he stepped foot within Vietnam, that no matter if his body lived through the war, he still would be dead in Vietnam. Another aspect of this passage that makes it very important is that it provides hope that someday the people who didn’t fight the war might one day understand how the war swallowed the minds of the men and never gave them back

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Gunner Harrison
04/29/2013 10:04am

In the first couple of chapters the narrator introduces the characters and describes what each person carries. Ted Lavender died, Kiowa carries his Bible, Cross carries pictures, and it talks about how every soldier carries emotional baggage. O'Brien states, "They carried the soldier's greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to"(O'Brien 21). This statement sets the standard for the actions in the rest of the book.
Many times the people in the book are forced to do terrible things in war. They were afraid not to do the things they did because they were afraid of shame. On the rainy river, the narrator decided not to run for Canada because he did not want to embarrass his family. This theme comes up often in the book, and the passage on page 21 lets the reader know that what they do is not for the glory or honor, it is the fear of dishonor. This allows the reader to understand how traumatic the upcoming experiences must be.

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Evan Pille
04/29/2013 12:36pm

There are a lot of comments here about the most startling or riveting passages of the book. But the one that stuck out the most to me was Speaking of courage. In this passage Norman Bowker goes through one of his days back from Vietnam. Much of it is reminisce, of what was and what could of been. He thinks about the girl he almost talked to, the medal he almost won, and the friend who died.

The significance of this passage comes from how it connects the life of the soldier to the life of a common man. Here we have a man who survived the war, bullet wounds, and the harsh land of Vietnam, but what he can't survive is the simple act of living. Life has been so harsh to him that when it finally lets up, any resemblance of normality seems foreign. He wasn't able to find anything to hold onto, so he killed himself. O' Brien is trying to show us with this passage how simply surviving life isn't enough. You have to truly make something of it to have any sense of sanity or happiness.

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Colby Clark
04/29/2013 3:39pm

The most significant passage in The Thing They Carried is the vignette titled “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” In this section, narrator Rat Kiley tells the story of a high school girl who flew out to Vietnam to stay with her boyfriend at the camp where he was stationed. The girl, “just a kid, just barely out of high school” (90), was innocent and pure when she arrived in Vietnam.However, after only a few weeks, the girl becomes changed into a primal, frightening embodiment of the Vietnam experience. Her entire personality is rewritten as the roots of Vietnam snake through her. In the end, she is practically a stranger to her boyfriend. She now wore a “necklace of human tongues” (110) and rode with the Army special forces on midnight ambushes. This passage is significant because it illustrates the way that war can entirely change a person, innocent though they may be. The Vietnam experience as a whole is demonstrated through the girl, Mary Anne. After she went to Vietnam, she could never return to her old innocence, Vietnam consumed her purity and replaced it with a dangerous realization of how the world is, O'Brien uses Mary Anne to show how no soldier came back from Vietnam the same person as they were before.
This vignette is significant because it shows that even in moments of relative peace, the war is always changing people. Even though there were no firefights and no death, Vietnam was still at work within the souls of the men who were there. Despite the fact that these men had freedom to socialize and be away from the death at the fronts, they were still affected. This vignette elaborates on the forgotten affects of being in a war. Not the death or the fighting, but the experience.

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