What is Tim O'Brien's purpose in writing The Things They Carried?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Author Tim O’Brien’s purpose in writing his book The Things They Carried is to use the genre of fiction to explore the harsh realities of war and communicate them to a wider audience. O’Brien did fight in the Vietnam War, but The Things They Carried is not a memoir—even though the protagonist, who narrates the story, is named O’Brien. This is one of the techniques the author uses to make his fiction more representative of reality. Beyond merely relying on imagery and dialogue to make his stories more realistic, O’Brien’s use of his own name for a character makes the reader question whether the book is based in fact. The verisimilitude woven throughout the book makes it difficult to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

O’Brien (as the author, not the character) developed his purpose for writing The Things They Carried after returning from the Vietnam War and learning that most Americans were very ignorant about the dynamics and the actual experience of the war. This was...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 875 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team