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The title story describes what the soldiers must lug with them—both literally and figuratively—as they march: food, canteens, flak jackets, and weapons, as well as grief, terror, secrets, and memories.In another story, O'Brien tells of a young medic who brings his high-school sweetheart to his aid station in the mountains of Vietnam, chronicling her transformation from an innocent girl in a pink sweater to a cold night stalker who dons a necklace of human tongues.
Yet another story tells of a soldier back from the war who drives his Chevy around his Iowa hometown, struggling to find meaning in his new life.
Central to the book is O'Brien's unique style, which blurs the lines between fact and fiction, then examines how and why he does just that.
He carries photos and letters from the girl he loves back home in New Jersey, who doesn't love him back.
Bob "Rat" Kiley is a likeable and skilled medic who braves danger to keep his fellow soldiers alive. Kiowa is a kind and moral soldier from Oklahoma, a Native American, a devout Baptist.
Feel free to change, adapt, improve on these as you desire (though I'd appreciate your letting me know so I can take advantage of your brilliance).
"Abstraction may make your head believe, but a good story, well told, will also make your kidneys believe, and your scalp and your tear ducts, your heart, and your stomach, the whole human being." —from The Things They Carried , Tim O’Brien had what some would call a typical 1950s American childhood in rural Minnesota before he was sent to fight in Vietnam as a foot soldier in 1969.
Published in 1990 to vast critical acclaim and written with the help of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, a novel about his experiences in that war, has sold well over two million copies worldwide and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
More recently, the book was included among Amazon.com’s “List of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” and was credited as the inspiration for a National Veterans Art Museum exhibit of the same name in Chicago.
First, I fell to the power of the text, slayed, if you will, by O'Brien's beautiful prose and his insistence that the book is not about war, but about love, and really, about writing and the power of the story.
As I tell my students all the time, "We are a story-telling people." I came to love the book.