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The story “The things they carried” by Tim O’Brien thrives of the theme of conflict both in the emotional and the physical. As it progressively unravels, an intra-personal conflict of the main character is revealed. He lives in fantasy of the girl he loved so much on the contrary she did not play along his line of expectation. He battles with his mind on which decision to take, whether to take part in the war or serve a jail term. Later a full-fledged battle field in Vietnam and finally the conflict is resolved. He is emotionally healed after the physical battle subsided.

Furthermore, we see another phase of conflict when the story climaxes. There is a revelation of inner emotions, when O’Brien in the company of his daughter visit Kiowa’s grave, he plunges himself in the mud, a symbol of baptism and a fresh beginning. He off-loads his grief and ill feeling that has been brewing over time by burying his late friend’s sandals.

The story is set in a war battle field in which the burden in life and experiences the soldiers had during the war in Vietnam is brought to the limelight. The writer blends fiction and facts in presenting a comprehensive piece to his reader. He employs pastiches of imagination, fantasy, author’s notations, memoir, literary commentary and finally nonfiction.

The writer further double-plays his characters by making them perform completely contradicting roles. The main character in this piece is the protagonist a well as the antagonist. As a protagonist with one Vietnam veteran, the character introspects on his life and experiences in the light of restoring and redeeming himself.

On the contrary, he is also painted the antagonist as he is bound by his own feelings of guilt which he struggles with in a bid to disentangle himself. He is quaffed with guilt, cowardice and hatred. O’Brien lives in self blame as he wonders what he was up to when he went ahead to report to the authority on what had transpired. In the same state he struggles to find the bearing of his life, when he reminisces of his friends who lost lives in the encounter.

O’Brien recruits a well of symbolism, juxtaposition, irony and pathetic fallacy. One great deal of symbolism is shown in the way he describes the heavy laden emotional baggage in comparison to the physical items and requirements of each soldier in the battle field. He explains the weighty emotional situation verses the physical.

The story takes a different twist after the conflict had been resolved. The main character ceases to live in speculation of the kind of being he would turn to be had he not engaged and fought during the war. This is aided by the understanding in the function stories play in changing past thoughts which encroached on his life’s progress. His pensive past is replaced by virtuous attributes e.g. giving succor to the colleagues at war and also telling truth.

In conclusion, “The Things they carried” is a depiction of a war-like situation both in the physical and emotional. A lesson taught and experiences shared to help free self from the haunting past by appreciating the different situations so to become better person. 

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