In The Things They Carried, discuss the narrator's attempted vengeance against Bobby Jorgensen in "The Ghost Soldiers."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This was actually one of the more disturbing stories that I read in this excellent short story collection from Tim O'Brien based on Vietnam and the experiences of so many soldiers. In this short story, the narrator decides to get even on a fellow soldier for his mistreatment of the narrator's condition. What is disturbing about this story is the way that it presents the Vietnam war as an opportunity for soldiers such as the narrator to scare their fellow soldiers and settle perceived wrongs in a violent and disturbing fashion. His attempt to "kill" Jorgenson and terrify him actually reveals a lot about the narrator himself. Note what Azar, the soldier who is helping the narrator, says and does to the narrator when the trick was discovered by Jorgenson and he realised that he was the victim of nothing more than a childish prank:

"Well," he muttered, "show's over." He looked down at me with a mixture of contempt and pity. After a second he shook his head. "Man, I'll tell you something. You're a sorry, sorry case."

I was trembling. I kept hugging myself, rocking, but I couldn't make it go away.

What is interesting about this story, then, is the way that pursuing vengeance against Jorgenson actually reveals the kind of man that the narrator really is, and the way that vengeance actually seems to impact the person pursuing that vengeance in some ways more than it does the person who receives that vengeance. The narrator is revealed to be the "sad" person that Azar kicks in the head as he leaves.

 

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