Impression on O’Brien’s Interview

I found it intriguing how methodical O’Brien was in his process to decide how to convey truth in his novel. Most noticeably, was that O’Brien dedicated the book to the characters thereby implying a realness to the events of the novel while reminding us of less typical uses of dedications. How he deliberately chose to create a work of fiction to let his readers have an engaging experience. This enables his readers to see the complexities of war, that it is certainly not black and white.

I initially believed this novel to be a memoir of events that O’Brien physically underwent with the characters in the book. After contemplation and revelation of the dedication to the characters and use of a self-named character with similar attributes to be tactical uses to convey a point, I now believe The Things They Carried to be a work of historical fiction. Being that it is based on a real event — the Vietnam War — but not is not a retelling or explanation of historical events, but simply a use of that period of society’s psyche to tell a story. It can also be considered a work of political fiction, as O’Brien is trying to convey a deeper meaning of war and open his reader’s naive eyes.

It was amusing how in order to touch our hearts, O’Brien had to distance it from his own, giving him more objectivity to control the story. Another interesting tidbit is that O’Brien did not expect his book to have continued success in the literature world.

I was shocked to hear that O’Brien dedicated his life to suffering from the events of the war. That after all these years of telling stories, that the effects of the Vietnam War have become a part of who he is.


Vietnam, a first hand experience

Jon E. Schiff, dentist in the US Navy, a man that underwent a stressful life, surviving the horrors of the Vietnam War. Enlisted, Jon had one purpose, to get away from his old life. His life had become simple: play basketball or not, to read in peace, or hide from artillery fire, to stay safe or venture danger to help soldiers. Schiff stayed relatively safe, remaining on military bases a majority of the time. Except when travelling to treat patients requiring the more experienced skills of his three years in the practice.

Schiff was treated well, putting in requests to have a basketball court built, make his building safer and chose which group he ate with. I admired how much respect he was treated with, most soldiers can’t ask for a basketball court and expect to receive one.

Reading about how quickly one can go from a peaceful evening relaxing to hiding in terror from enemy fire is frightening. You have to quickly assess your situation. Otherwise, boom, you’re dead. Reading about how Jon put his life in danger to help his comrades is inspiring. He performed an emergency tracheotomy and put on a tourniquet two marines while under artillery fire.

To see the story: