How are the attitudes of the American public regarding the Vietnam War reflected in the characters of this short story?I understand what all the things they carried told about them and how they...

How are the attitudes of the American public regarding the Vietnam War reflected in the characters of this short story?

I understand what all the things they carried told about them and how they tied the soldiers to their homes and longing to be home, but I didn't really see where O'Brien reflected the attitudes of the American people. Wasn't he a real soldier? Where are his attitudes reflected

Expert Answers
teacherscribe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

O'Brien was indeed drafted into the Vietnam war.  Check out the first enotes link below for more information on the author's background.

The second link offers some historical context information that you should find helpful.

As far as the story goes, one of the most powerful lines occurs on page 15 of my text:  "They [the soldiers] marched like mules.  By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, but it was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost.  They marched for the sake of the march."  This illustrates the frustration the soldiers feel.  Remember, O'Brien was 22 when he was in Vietnam and many soldiers were younger than that.  Their frustration at the slow pace of the jungle warfare tactics is evident.  O'Brien states over and over again how they would set up and secure an area only to be ordered to abandon it.  For the soldiers it seems that there is no clear purpose for them being there. 

Many of the soldiers too reflect the pro-war attitudes of previous generations.  O'Brien states, "They were afraid of dying but they were even more afraid to show it" (19).  Here is the fear of not living up to the heroes of the other wars and coming home in shame, which, ultimately, is what happened.

Read the study guide:
The Things They Carried

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