True war tales are best told by those who have been through them. The tales carry the events to life for the reader, helping them to consider the psychoanalytic experiences of those concerned. The internal viewpoint of the soldiers determines whether they succeed or fail in combat. As a result, using the story narrated by Tim O’Brien on the ‘Stuff, They Carried,’ this paper would attempt to explain the psychological viewpoint of the soldiers during the Vietnam War and demonstrate that it was their emotional encounters that caused them to be vulnerable rather than loving. The report would also look at the psychological toll that the fighting took on the troops. The Feeling of Love during the War
The soldiers carry a lot of burdens in the story told by O’Brien. They are both physical and emotional difficulties such as love, grief, a feeling of longing and terror (Wiener 43). The emotional burdens of every man in the war underscore their physical loads. Henry Dobbins is one of the soldiers who carry the feeling of love to the war. He even brought a pair of pantyhose that belongs to his girlfriend to the war to prove the sense of longing and comfort (Kowalewski 6). Clearly, he is one of the soldiers who is motivated by love during the war. The love he has for his girlfriend makes him very ambitious to get out of the war alive. Therefore, love makes him face the issues in the battle firmly and conquer the enemy. Therefore, from the story of Henry Dobbins, love strengthened him during the fight.
The soldiers also had profound and genuine love for each other during the Vietnam War. O’Brien tells of the first soldier to die during the war. His name is Ted Lavender, a low-ranking soldier who is so anxious about the war that he keeps using marijuana and tranquilizers (Bonney 12). Although it is common for some soldiers to lose their lives during the war, Jimmy Cross the man responsible for carrying compasses and maps feels very guilty about it. He wishes that he would have been attentive during that time because he was a little bit distracted by the thoughts of his college crush. The love that Cross had for his fellow soldier men is so deep that he continues to feel guilty for the death of Lavender twenty years after the war is over (Beach 10). It is clear that the soldiers are motivated by the love they shared in fighting successfully and protecting each other during the war.
The narrator himself is driven by love to take part in the war. When he receives a draft of the notice to be part of the soldiers to participate in the war, he feels confused. He goes to the North Border of Canada and contemplates the idea of crossing over so that he is not forced to fight in the battle. He does not believe in the Vietnam border because of his political affiliation. However, as he is situated in a rowboat with the owner of the Tip Top Lodge, he feels that he cannot disappoint his family of avoiding the war. The move to take part in the war is motivated by the love that he has for his family. He also has a love for his country, and that is why the guilt to disappoint both of them pushes him to engage in the battle. He even goes to his home before going to the war. Therefore, it is clear that the love he had for his country made him leave for the war. Moreover, the love he had for his family moved him during the war, and he always felt the need to conquer. Therefore, love made the soldiers in the war stronger (Hansen 8).
It is the emotional issues that the soldiers experience during the war that make them weak and not the feeling of love. For instance, when Lavender is shot in the head, Jimmy Cross is thinking about Martha who used to be his college crush (Bonney 14). The reason that these thoughts distract him is that he feels that the love he had for Martha was never reciprocated. Therefore, he becomes too engrossed in his thoughts to notice the attack on Lavender. Clearly, it is not the love that he had for Martha that distracted him but the emotional issue that came along with his participation in the war that made Martha fail to reciprocate the feelings of love. The emotional issues that soldiers carry to war are the ones that make them weak.
Emotional Burden after the War
The end of the war also places psychological burdens of guilt, grief, and confusion in the lives of the soldiers. For example, Norman Bowker feels very confused and suffers from guilt after the war is over (Beach 10). He drives carelessly around his hometown lake thinking about various people in his life. He remembers many events of the war including the death of Kiowa. He feels the need to talk to somebody, but he does not find any suitable person. He enrolls in a junior college and even looks for short term jobs, yet he can’t still find a meaning to his life now that the war is over. Finally, Bowker hangs himself in the YMCA and leaves a seventeen-page letter addressed to O’Brien telling him that his life became meaningless after the war. Therefore, it is clear that despite the achievements he got during the period of war, he still carried an emotional burden after it ended. The end of the war deprived him of any meaning of life and ambition to live.
The end of the war also placed a heavy emotional burden on O’Brien. After getting the letter from Bowker, he began to reflect on his life and realized that if he had not transitioned into Harvard University, he would also have lost the meaning of life. The writing was another thing that kept him sane after the end of the war. He uses the stories to relieve himself to the readers. It is the tool he uses to live with the emotional burden that came along with the end of the war. Clearly, the end of the Vietnam War had an effect on all the soldiers who were involved, and they carried the burdens to their life after the war ended.
The story narrated by O’Brien is a masterpiece in explaining the psychological issues that the soldiers handled during the war. It is a must read for anybody who wishes to understand the personal events that soldiers deal with during the war. The love that different soldiers had for their partners, their colleagues, their country, and family gave them the courage to keep fighting. It also gave them the ambition to look forward to once the war was over. Therefore, the love made them strong. However, most of the soldier men still suffered emotional burdens when the war came to an end. They lost meaning for life, contemplated about the death of their colleagues and lost the essence of all the medals they had won. The only ones who survived after the end of the Vietnam war were those that had been motivated by love and those that got a means to open up to the world.
Beach, Richard. “Students’ Use of Languaging in Rewriting Events From the Things They Carried.” Dialogic Pedagogy 5.1 (2017): 5-17. Web.
The article by Richard focuses on the events that the soldiers went through as written by different students who have gone through his book. The aim of the article is to help identify the psychological issues of the soldiers and how they affected them during and after the Vietnam War. Richard’s article is a must read for everyone seeking to understand the emotional situation of the people involved in the war.
Bonney, Sarah. “Morality and Pleasure in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.” Journal of Literary Criticism 9.4 (2016): 12-26. Web.
Sarah looks at the pleasure that the soldiers felt during and after the war especially for those who survived. She also looks at the morality of the soldiers with a focus on how they lived during and after the war and the decisions they made. The article is excellent for the reader who seeks to understand how the feeling of pleasure can affect the lives of soldiers particularly after a war is over.
Hansen, McKay. “The Star-Spangled Banshee: Fear of the Unknown in The Things They Carried.” A Journal of Literary Criticism 10.1 (2017): 8-10. Web.
McKay writes an article that focuses on the burden of fear that the soldiers had to carry. They left their loved ones and their country to fight in a war that some did not even believe in. McKay excellently brings out the emotional burden that the soldiers went through as they joined the fight and even when it ended. He helps the reader understand the emotional effects of war with an emphasis on fear.
Kowalewski, Laurence. “Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried: Postmodern Fiction for a Postmodern War.” Inquiries Journal 3.8 (2011): 1-28. Web.
Kowalski focuses on the method that O’Brien uses to narrate the events of the war and refers to it as postmodern fiction. He understands that it is a way that the writer is using to relieve himself from the emotional issues caused by the war. The article is excellent for the reader who seeks to understand the effects of the war even after it ended on the soldiers. It opens up the text to the lives of the characters in the book by O’Brien.
Wiener, Gary. The war in Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. E-book.
Gary analyses the book by Tim O’Brien by looking at the lives of the soldier men before and after the war. The book by Gary also looks at the themes brought out by O’Brien and realizes that emotional issues were a major factor during and after the war. The book is a masterpiece in analyzing every part of the story told by O’Brien.