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The Things They Carried Essay

1485 words - 6 pages

The Interwoven, Unfathomable & Unstoppable Truths

It is said, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine” and the United States Marine Corps motto is “Semper Fidelis” or if you are a Marine you say, “Semper Fi!” I am a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, I can attest to the fact that in very many ways that statement is true, as is our motto, please note I wrote “our motto” vs. their motto, as I still very much am a US Marine! What is true about that statement? Tim O’Brien’s fictional book, The Things They Carrie, indirectly and in unexpected ways answers the question about the Marines. Since the vast majority of people have not been in combat, O’Brien uses vivid stories, which are fiction mixed with ...view middle of the document...

Ranson’s quote shows the significance that O’Brien gives to its content.
By the precise placement of Ranson’s quote, O’Brien sets the stage about “truth,” and that different people may question what truth is. “In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. It’s a question of credibility. Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness” (O’Brien, 71). O’Brien is saying that unless you have been through war you will not believe a truthfully correct war story. Each story O’Brien tells, fact or fiction, shows that war is terrible, horrible, and unthinkable things happen. The vast majority of people cannot, nor would want to be able to, directly relate to the extremes that combat brings.
Regardless of how much you factually see you cannot escape the war. In combat, it is all around you, it never giving up, it never giving in, not the enemy, the war! “In any war story, but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen” (71). Here the author is pointing out that a soldier’s reality, just like anyone else, determines what is true. The nature of combat is so overwhelming to the senses, so stressful, and so out of the “norm,” that the brain can only process so much information. If you saw one of your men get killed right in front of you, and the next moment you are looking and thinking about a beautiful ray of light, you may begin to question reality as well.
Reality can be defined in as many ways and both adults and kids play “reality games.” When we go to the movies, often it is to escape reality, and enter an altered reality. The author states, “Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer that the truth” (83). A war story may be an altered reality, and very possibly may have an altered truth. A person needs to be able to relate to a war story you tell, and often times it is also important for that person to agree with at least one of the principals or possibly one or more of the morals behind the story. In O’Brien’s case, he uses the story of four guys walking down a trail. A grenade sails out and one of the guys jumps on it and saves the other three. The majority of people can understand why one of the solders might give his life so that the other soldiers may live. From Bible stories, fairytales, and other sources, we have come to believe that by giving his life for the other three, that soldier is doing something morally heroic. However, they probably would not understand the contrasting story told by O’Brien, even if this is the factually correct version. The same four guys walk down a trail, a grenade sails out, and one-guy jumps on it, but because of the type of grenade it was, all four men end up dead. Let me show you where the moral is in that… Remember the first...

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