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The Things They Carried

by Tim O’Brien
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Examine literature of the Vietnam War. Your thesis statement should address the following questions: What is the role of literature in the creation or recreation of the memory of war? The two texts you should to support your argument are “The Refugees” and “The Things They Carried” . Some questions to consider may include: Does the form of literature(poem, short story, novel) matter? How does the authors choose to tell their stories and how does that inform you about the act of remembering war? Remember that your thesis needs to be arguable and be sure to support your arguments with evidence from each books using direct quotes and explain the quotes. Pertinent themes we’ve been discussing include narrative/storytelling, memory, time, death trauma, culture.

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The Things They Carried is a great example of literature that questions human memory and perception. This novel is a historically fictive account of the Vietnam War that challenges the reader's perception of truth. Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam veteran, wrote this novel in an attempt to convey to civilians the reality of wartime. To do so, O'Brien developed a fictive truth about the war. He believed that in order for civilians to feel anything close to what he felt, he would have to tell a story that built upon the truth. The novel's narrator says,

I want you to feel what I felt. I want you know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

O'Brien's war stories differ greatly from traditional romanticized accounts of the war because he writes a truthful account of the horror and obscenity of war. This truthful account is not necessarily fact, but it is true in the emotions it evokes in the reader.

In answering this question, it may be useful to consider how Viet Thanh Nguyen uses truth and memory in The Refugees. Some questions to explore are the following:

How does the refugee experience relate to the veteran experience?

What are the tools each author uses to convey truth?

How does truth relate to memory?

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