The Things They Carried is written as a collection of short stories that combine to make a mostly unified novel. It is a look on the Vietnam war from the perspective of a soldier and his unit.
From a literary perspective, this book is amazing. The writing is well played out. The chapters could mostly read exclusively on their own, yet they combine together to create a picture of a unit in the Vietnam war. Yet it is a fuzzy picture purposely left to make the reader wonder how much of this novel is fiction and how much was based on "facts." It is impossible to understand a war unless you were there, yet O'Brien utilizes this writing style to help the reader to understand. Even then I know it only helps to a small degree. Even with his vivid writing, the various perspective of the members of the unit, and showing Vietnam from multiple perspectives I am left knowing that I will never understand what it was like to be in Vietnam.
This novel is a work of art. I understand why it is taught in schools as both an amazing novel as well as a way to help students understand Vietnam.
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