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The Things They Carried One Pager

Tim O’Brien feels that war is a contradictory and immoral concept that neither serves a
purpose or teaches; rather, it and its tales simply exist to to serve as a representation of the
genuine emotions and experiences felt in war that non-soldiers cannot understand. Once Rat
loses his close friend Curt Lemon during combat, he sends a letter to Lemon’s sister about their
friendship and how much Rat loved him, to which the sister never replies. After this event,
O’Brian comments that a true war story is true because of “...its absolute and uncompromising
allegiance to obscenity and evil...because it’s so incredibly sad and true: she never wrote back”
(66). Even though Rat felt a genuine brotherhood with this women’s brother and cared for him
deeply, the sister never even gave him a response. The sister does not reply because of her
lack of understanding of the deep bond that Rat and Lemon shared.
O’Brien also goes into the emotional aspect of war that sticks with him. He expresses his
distaste for war by saying that when speaking about war you “Do not generalize...for example:
War is hell...because it generalizes, I can’t believe it with my stomach...A true war story, it truly
told, makes the stomach believe” (74). Although there are general truths of the brutality and
violence of war, simply claiming that war is hell does not embody the truth of what truly goes on.
A true war story expresses the exact feeling of being at war. The gut-wrenching feeling of
seeing your best friend fall to the ground, the near death experiences you go through every day,
and though they are not stories that want to be heard, they are the only stories that O’Brien can
confidently believe is real, because it makes him feel like he’s back in the fight.
There is also an emotional disconnect between those who experienced war and those
who only hear about it. When speaking with a woman about the tragic story between Rat Kiley
and Lemon, she laments about how sad war stories are, but O’Brien wants to correct her and
states that “It wasn’t war story. It was a love story” (81). For a caring yet ignorant woman such
as her, she interprets the story as a one of tragic war, instead of one focusing on the
overwhelming love that Kiley and Lemon shared. Those who knew Kiley and Lemon and went
through the war understand that the true significance has nothing to do with their involvement in
the war, but rather the brotherhood that was shared between them regardless of the grim
situation they were surrounded in, and even as Rat Kiley persisted in his love for Lemon, he
was struck down and continued to care for him.
In conclusion, war is an emotionally charged experience that consisted of pure
contradictions and wicked truths, and could only be understood and truly expressed by those
who went through war themselves.

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