The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Study Questions Part
4- "Speaking of Courage" Story Cycle
Amy Reynolds, Engl. 098
"Speaking of Courage"
- As the story opens, what is Norman Bowker doing?
- What happened to Norman's friend Max?
- On pg. 129, what does Max say about the necessity of God as an "idea"?
- What happened to his old girlfriend, Sally Kramer?
- How long has he been doing his present activity? (see pg. 140)
- What day of the year does this story take place?
- Which one of his medals was Norman Bowker especially proud of?
- What medal did he almost win?
- How did the Song Tra Bong change during the rainy season?
- What was it about the river that especially got to Norman?
- What did the town not care to know about?
- What does the word "bivouack" mean?
- What did the old women of the ville yell to the men when they
bivouacked in the field?
- What did the soldiers realize was the purpose of the field?
- In the field, what was the difference between courage and cowardice?
- What happened to the platoon late in the night?
- Who did Norman hear screaming?
- What did Norman see in the glare of the red flares?
- How did Norman try to save Kiowa?
- What made him fail?
- What would Norman never be able to do?
- Where is Norman at the very end of the story, and what is he looking
"In the Field"
- What did Norman do to himself in 1978?
- What did he feel had happened to him in Vietnam?
- What does he ask Tim to do?
- What had O'Brien felt smug about?
- According to O'Brien, what are you doing when you tell stories about
your own experience?
- How did O'Brien feel about the short story he published from a chapter
in "Going After Cacciato"?
- Ultimately, what "ruined" the story?
- What did Norman have to say about the story?
- How did O'Brien revise the story for The Things They Carried?
- Who was "in no way responsible" for Kiowa's death, according to
- What is the platoon doing as the story opens?
- What was Lt. Jimmy Cross determined to do?
- Did Cross know who the young soldier was?
- How had Cross been trained to treat his men, and how did he prefer
to treat them?
- What was Cross's opinion of Kiowa?
- What does Cross begin doing in his head?
- Who are the three soldiers who are searching for Kiowa's body?
- Which one is angry at Lieutenant Cross?
- Which one feels it's no one's fault?
- Which one is cracking stupid jokes about irony?
- How did Lt. Cross feel about being a soldier?
- Who came to Lt. Cross during the night and what did he say?
- When Cross notices the young soldier again, what does he realize
is significant about the boy's movements?
- What were Kiowa and the boy doing just before the attack started?
- What does the boy believe about his role in Kiowa's death?
- What did the boy try to do when he saw Kiowa in the mud?
- On page 170, who couldn't the young, unnamed soldier be?
- What is your guess as to the identity of the boy?
- What is the young soldier actually looking for?
- Who found Kiowa's body?
- How many men tried to pull his body out?
- What did the soldiers feel besides feeling bad for Kiowa?
- What does Azar say to Norman Bowker about his jokes?
- What does Norman say about whose fault it was?
- On page 177, Cross lists everything one could blame for Kiowa's death.
But in the field, what must one conclude about the causes?
- Where does Lt. Cross imagine himself?
- Do you think he writes the letter to Kiowa's father or not?
- Explain the difference between "story-truth" and "happening-truth."
- According to O'Brien, which one is "truer"?
- What can stories do?
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- What was Tim looking for at the site of Kiowa's death?
- What is as remote to Kathleen as "cavemen and dinosaurs"?
- What had the "little field" swallowed?
- What had the field embodied for Tim, for the last 20 years?
- What did Tim bring to the field to leave behind?
- What is the change brought about in Tim by his action in the river?
- Who might Kathleen symbolize?