Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

The things they carried

6,212 views

Published on

An analysis of the narrative structure of The Things They Carried
NOTE: Lecture notes are in the notes section of each slide as well citation of articles used.

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

The things they carried

  1. 1. Fitting the Pieces Together: The Narrative Design of The Things They Carried By Tim O’Brien
  2. 2. Defining Narrative StructureA story or a narrative is anaccount of events. But it is notjust any sort of account of anyevents. It is a selection andordering of events into ameaningful pattern. Moresimply put, narrative structureis about the ways in which astory has been structured orput together.
  3. 3. • It expresses the devastation of war while simultaneously keeping the dignity of the soldier intact• It develops one of the central themes regarding the nature of reality and what is TRUTH, what he will term “emotional truth”• This will feed into O’Brien’s metafictional musings on the nature of fiction and its ability to reveal truth more truly than reality
  4. 4. - Catalogues (listings)- Episodic , short story units- Multiple versions of the same event which has a circular effect- Repetition– on the sentence, paragraph, concept and chapter level- Characters through different points of view- Metafictional elements (protagonist’s name, the epigraphs, the self-conscious reflections about the fictional writing process)- Juxtaposition between highly figurative, often lofty syntax - Coarse, rough, sexual, common conversational diction of the soldier (like Rat Kiley and Azar) - Sureal, lofty imagery of nature - Brutal, journalistic descriptions of events
  5. 5. 1) Author’s name versus protagonist2) Usage of the epigraphs3) Multiple versions of events4) Protagonist’s admission that a story he just told was not true or the story is presented in fragments in a later chapter or chapters5) Changes in point in view (Rat Kiley’s story in “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”)
  6. 6. “Metafiction is a term given to fictional writingwhich self-consciously and systematically drawsattention to its status as an artifact in order to posequestions about the relationship between fictionand reality.” –Patricia Waugh, Metafiction: TheTheory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction.
  7. 7. “ ‘You writer types’ he said, ‘you’ve got longmemories’ “ (28)“ ‘And do me a favor. Don’t mentionanything about—’ “‘No,’ I said, ‘I won’t.’ “ (30)
  8. 8. Symbolism of checkers: “There were red checkers and black checkers. . . You knew where you stood. You knew the score. . .There was a winner and a loser. There were rules” (32).O’Brien will introduce Curt Lemon’s deathon page 32 with horrific ambiguity andunderstatement: “Curt Lemon hanging inpieces from a tree” but then readers onlyget the full story in “How to Tell a True WarStory” and then it isn’t given to us as a fullnarrative, but rather in pieces
  9. 9. “I sit at this typewriter and stare through my words and watchKiowa sinking into the deep muck of a shit field . . . And as I write about thesethings, the remembering is turned into a kind of rehappening. . .The bad stuffnever stops happening: it lives in its own dimension, replaying itself over andover” ( 32).“The thing about remembering is that you don’t forget. You take your materialwhere you find it, which is in your life, at the intersection of past and present.The memory traffic feeds into a rotary up on your head, where it goes in circlesfor a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges andshoots off down a thousand different streets. As a writer, all you can do is pick astreet and go for the ride, putting things down as they come at you.” ( 35).“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours inthe night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to whereyou are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothingto remember except the story” ( 38)
  10. 10. “ America was divided on these and a thousand other issues” (40).“. . .Oddly, thought, it was almost entirely an intellectual activity”Stupidly, and with a kind of smug removal, that I can’t begin to fathom, I assumedthat the problems of killing and dying did not fall with in my special province” (41).“ I was above it” ( 41)“ I remember the rage in my stomach” ( 42)
  11. 11. Pages 57-59• Highlights O’Brien’s technique and usage of repetition to unify his narrative, as he returns to the format from “The Things They Carried”.• The highly poetic syntax and figurative diction are a departure from the bluntness and crassness of where he is in the trenches and the soldiers’ language reflects a raw brutality and visceral need to be brave.• The listing creates a different sense of his collective emotional memory. There are images that occur in the future to express the timelessness of this moment and amplify the element that he is at a crossroads of his fate, viewing, so to speak his entire fate of past, present, future.
  12. 12. Short, episodic chapters –reflect O’Brien’s craft as a writer in liking chapterstogether.• “Enemies” follows Tim’s moral crisis before the war; this chapter highlights the psychological impact of war when you are in the midst of the war. The moral ambiguity is intensified --from Tim’s sense of confusion regarding the lack of clear answers finds its way in Vietnam: “ The distinction between good guys and bad guys disappeared for him” ( 63).• “Friends” captures the soldier’s attempts to control their fate—to go out on their own terms and their desire to be whole in more than one aspect.• Ultimately, the desire to survive is too strong and overcomes it
  13. 13. • Symmetry of Rat Kiley as the narrator of the letter story: “ Rat had a reputation for exaggeration and overstatement, a compulsion to rev up the facts and for most of us it was a normal procedure to discount sixty or seventy percent of anything he had to say” (89).• This chapter is justifying the intent of The Things They Carried. The narrator is also providing clues to the content, structure, and interpretation of the novel“In any war story, but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate whathappened from what seemed to happen…the angels of vision are skewed”(71).
  14. 14. “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” (77) “. . . You can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil” (69).“there is always that surreal seemingness, whichmakes the story seem untrue, but which in factrepresent the hard and exact truth as it seemed”( 71).

×