Guilt in The Things They Carried

4 April 2015
This is an analysis of guilt and its presence in Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.”

This paper analyzes guilt and how it was presented in Tim O’Brien’s novel “The Things They Carried.” The author discusses the sources of guilt and how that emotion is dealt with as two of the major themes in the paper. It looks at the causes and effects of guilt in the book and compares them to outside sources.
“No one who has not been in a war can approach a comprehensive understanding of the war experience. However, if there were a book out there that could come close to making the war a reality for a civilian, it would be Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Through the use of short stories about the Vietnam Conflict, O’Brien brings to life the various emotions felt by the soldiers, like fear, hate, love, compassion, and, of course, guilt. Guilt proved to be an emotion that could stay with a soldier for the rest of his life, and, if a true understanding of a soldier’s experience is to be obtained, it is worthy of further study. Because it is such a raw and basic human emotion, everyone has had some experience with it in the past. It is not surprising, then, that the guilt felt by the soldiers in Vietnam is not a new phenomena. There are, in fact, many examples in the book and in the war that can be linked and compared with studies and with other historical events in history. The types of guilt shown throughout the collection of short stories and the various ways the soldiers dealt with it can be correlated to other instances of guilt to begin to show the reader the severity of the situations that these soldiers were enduring, and to bring about a better understanding of the war experience.”
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