Writing About A Text
The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
The stories we have read by Tim O'Brien deal with the Vietnam War, but they also contain many compelling issues about the human condition unchanged by the 30 years since that conflict. For your last essay of the semester, write an essay in which you draw from these stories some issue, conflict, theme, or motif that interests you. As stated in the portfolio requirements, "This should not only discuss an author's ideas but should also present the student's opinion and interpretation as distinct from the author's." Don't simply tell the story; construct an argument for a particular point of view about it. Below are several topic choices for your to consider; if you have another topic in mind, please discuss it with me before proceeding. Your essay should refer to and quote from at least three of the stories.
Refer to Keys for Writers for additional guidance on writing about literature (pages 67-72). Refer to the Text-Based 098 essays in New Voices for successful examples.
1. In "The Things They Carried," O'Brien writes that "Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to" (21). Find three characters from the assigned stories and explain how their actions, attitudes, and beliefs reflect O'Brien's point of view in regards to such issues as masculinity, cowardice and courage. What are your conclusions regarding the issues O’Brien raises? Use plenty of examples from the stories to support your point.
2. Why is it so hard to "tell a true war story"? Write
an essay in which you examine O’Brien’s use of imagination and invention,
and the difficulties posed by wartime conditions on truth-telling.
3. Throughout the stories, O’Brien juxtaposes images of great beauty with images of great horror, the scene of Curt Lemon’s death in "How to Tell A True War Story" being one notable example. Write an essay in which you trace the use of such contrasting images across at least three of the stories. What do these contrasting images say about O’Brien’s experiences in Vietnam?
4. The men deal with the uncertainty, fear, and death
around them in sometimes surprisingly tender, irreverently funny, or horrifyingly
brutal ways. Choose three characters from the stories to examine how
these characters respond to their circumstances and the men around them.
What conclusions can you draw about men and war through these examples?
5. People are usually profoundly changed by their experiences
in war. Choose at least 3 characters from the stories and examine how
these characters were changed by their experiences. What conclusions can
you draw from these examples about the effects of war on the human spirit?
6. What is the role of women and girls in the book? Examine
the various female characters in the novel and explain what each may represent.
7. The "Speaking of Courage" sequence, as well as the stories related to "the Man I Killed," deal a lot with the issue of responsibility and guilt. Discuss how at least three characters deal with their feelings of guilt over the deaths of those around them.
Comments Due Friday, April 20
Revised Draft Due Wednesday, April 25
Please note that it is MOST IMPORTANT that you adhere to this schedule! No Late Papers PLEASE!