Chris Elliott
Professor Thomas
Eng 102
24 March 2003
Research Paper
After reading short stories such as "Barn Burning," "The Things They
Carried," and "I Stand Here Ironing," these works made me wonder what the
authors were thinking when they wrote these short stories. The short
summary before each story do tell some facts about the author, which gives
the reader an explanation for where the author is coming from when he or
she writes the short story. However, these short biographies left me
wanting to learn more information about the authors. The one short story
that raises the most questions is "The Things They Carried," written by Tim
O'Brien in 1990.
O'Brien is one of many writers who wrote about the Vietnam War, but one of
the few that uses first hand experiences in his stories. This element adds
in the effectiveness of the short story. The great detail of the war front
in Vietnam made me feel like I was part of the platoon, which was at risk
each and every day they stepped outside of their bases. Almost all of his
stories involve a war-like experience or situation.
This story provides great relevance to me today because of the situation
that our country is involved in over in Iraq. During this particular time
in our country today many parallels are created with the War today and the
Vietnam War. I believe we all need to learn as much as we can about our
country's history in order to understand the situation we are currently
involved. O'Brien uses his literary techniques to help give the reader a
sense of understanding what the troops go through during war. I have
always been intrigued with stories about personal war experiences or books
describing the time line of events that took place. Before our country
invaded Iraq many people in our country were divided about our relationship
with Iraq. Now it is time for the citizens of the United States of America
to support our troops, who are giving their lives to fight for something
they believe in. Especially since American troops have started to lose
their lives in operation freedom. Many of the scenes in "The Things They
Carried" can relate to the same situation the troops in Iraq may feel while
marching through the desert. I feel that O'Brien is the perfect author to
study and learn more about his background during this somber time in our
The only information that I know about Tim O'Brien is from the short
biography listed before the story. This information states that O'Brien
was born on 1947 in Austin, Minnesota. He received his education from
Macalester College then went to Harvard University to further his
education. O'Brien won the national book award for "Going After Cacciato"
in 1978. His short story, "The Things They Carried," that I choose to
analyze was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. After reading the story, I
knew that he served in the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam War back in
the 1970's.
The short story "The Things They Carried" poses many questions and
made me feel the need for more information. I want to know what inspired
O'Brien to start writing about the Vietnam War when he returned. What his
actual role in the Vietnam War was and why he decided to join the army are
also questions in my mind. From the story was did he decide to write about
the items the soldiers carried during battle. Also what other stories has
O'Brien written about his war experiences? Through research I hope to find
when O'Brien became serious about writing? What was O'Brien's opinion on
the war and did he every feel that they were fighting for the wrong
reasons? Was their ever a moment in the war when he mentally lost focus or
did he use writing as a relaxation technique? Many of these questions I
will try to answer from research.
Doing research takes many hours of concentration and time sorting
through sources that are relevant to the topic. I first started to use the
electronic card catalog through Pepperdine express from the library. This
attempt was unsuccessful and only retrieved information that had no
significance to my topic. Every time I have used the card catalog many
attempts have come up unsuccessful, and start to question my techniques. I
decided to go and talk to one of the librarians for assistance. He told me
that I was not using the correct words in the keyword search for the
information I was trying to access. Once I changed the keywords to search