Describe the speakers of Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" and John Crawford's "Lies." What do the voices of these pieces have in common? What kind of argument does each voice present? Are there similarities between the voices, or are they specific products of their experiences?

Tim O'Brien's speaker in "The Things They Carried" is reflective and descriptive, concerned with producing a detailed literary account of the men who fought with him in Vietnam. In John Crawford's "Lies," the speaker is angrier and more direct, more concerned with his own situation and less with his surroundings. His style is less literary and more journalistic than O'Brien's, and he is more overtly critical of the unsound basis for the war.

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Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" and John Crawford's "Lies" are both short stories which form part of books, in the former case about the Vietnam War, and in the latter about the Iraq War. Both are written as first-person narratives by former combatants.

"The Things They Carried" is the first story in O'Brien's collection of the same name and explores the personalities of the speaker's fellow soldiers through the medium of the few personal possessions they were able to carry with them. The literary style is clearly influenced by modernism and realism, perhaps particularly by Hemingway. The speaker is one of the combatants, but he is detached and declarative in his descriptions of the others. He observes them closely and chronicles their emotions and reactions. Writing of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and his response to the death of a man under his command, the speaker says:

He felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war.

It is fair to say that O'Brien's speaker is a writer who went to Vietnam, while Crawford's is a man who became a writer because he went to Iraq. Although they describe similar situations, "Lies" is a shorter and simpler story than "The Things They Carried." The speaker is angrier, and less interested in reflecting on his surroundings. He has just returned to active duty after two weeks' leave, and is frustrated to be back in Iraq, partly because aspects of the country now seem more familiar to him than his home does. The story concludes with the lines:

"Everything cool with your wife and shit?"

"Yeah, she's great." I put out my cigarette and lit another one, sucking in a deep breath of poison, holding it, then letting it go. I couldn't and wouldn't tell him what was really going on. None of us talked about stuff like that. And as Baghdad slept beneath me, I tried to believe my own lies.

Crawford's speaker addresses the issues of war and its justification more directly than O'Brien's does. He is more firmly against war in principle, and this war in particular. O'Brien's concern is with describing how people behave under the stress of fighting a war, including the long periods of waiting. He has less to say about the senselessness of war, and the waste of life. While O'Brien's style is more literary and reflective, Crawford's is simple, direct, and often reads like journalism or polemic, an anti-war argument rather than a relatively impartial description of the effects of war.

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