The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O'Brien
Publication Date: January, 1990
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Short Stories
GoodReads Summary: They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.
What I Think: I've shared my story of growing up with a father who is a Vietnam Veteran before...twice actually, once when I read All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg and again when I reviewed Eli the Good by Silas House. I had heard people talk about The Things They Carried and as much as I wanted to read it because it is so widely revered, a part of me was also scared to read it because I knew it was going to be an intense book. There is no doubt that books help us to feel things - and sometimes emotions that we may not want to feel. I wasn't sure how I would respond emotionally to this book. As I read, there were definitely times when it was hard to read because of just how sad the stories are but other times I felt sad in a way that helped me to feel grateful and so blessed for the things that I do have in my life. I'm lucky that my dad made it back from Vietnam, found love, and is part of my wonderful family. It breaks my heart that there are things he has had to deal with in his life that no human being should have to endure but it makes me so proud of him and again, so thankful that he's in my life today. It also makes me think of all the people who have endured hardships - whether in connection with war or not. And that leads me to the fact that this book isn't just a collection of war stories. While it does bring to life experiences of soldiers in the Vietnam War, it's more than short stories about the Vietnam War. It's truly about people and relationships and determination and love. The summary refers to the capacity and the limits of the human heart and soul. That's exactly what this book is about. Suddenly, the movie Forrest Gump just came to mind. I haven't thought about that movie in a while but it just occurred to me that as much as that movies is a string of events and experiences that Forrest has, it's also about the relationships that he makes along the way and the people he influences. What stands out to me from The Things They Carried is that, like Forrest Gump, it's a book about people and how war brings out the best and the worst of people and forces us to reach the limits of the human heart and soul but at the same time realize just how resilient our hearts and souls truly can be in the face of such extreme circumstances.
One thing I would recommend to any teacher who is reading The Things They Carried with students is that you encourage students to also read some other books about the Vietnam War but written from different perspectives. The Things They Carried is written from the perspective of a person in the Vietnam War as a soldier for the United States and is semi-autobiographical but there are several other books worth reading to help students grasp how the war impacted not only the people serving in the military but others as well. If you read my other posts where I have talked about this, it's a subject very close to me and a fascinating time in history to share and discuss.
Read Together: Grades 10 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 10 - 12
Read With: All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg, Eli the Good by Silas House, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt, Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Snatch of Text:
*Honestly, I tried to pull a line or a paragraph from this book as a snatch of text but I just couldn't. Every line that I love just feels like it belongs with all the other lines around it. In a way, I felt like I would be taking away from the story by pulling a line out because it just doesn't read or seem the same compared to when it's in context. Sorry! You'll just have to read it and see what I mean. :)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Visualizing
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Expository, Descriptive
Writing Prompts: Write about at time in your life when you were pushed to you limit and what helped you get through it. Research more about the Vietnam War or other topics associated with it and share what you learned.
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Loyalty, Trust, Hope, Dreams, Determination, Fear, Integration - Social Science
I *heart* It: