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The Things They Carried- Character Analysis Essays

CHARACTER in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The narrator – Ultimately, The Things They Carried is more about its narrator than anybody else, and although it feels at times like a book about war, it is ultimately a book about the narrator’s coming to terms with his past. Although the narrator is frequently called “Tim,” or “O’Brien,” the author and the narrator are not entirely the same person. Unlike O’Brien’s work If I Die in a Combat Zone (Box Me Up and Ship Me Home), The Things They Carried is deliberately not an autobiography. Jimmy Cross – More than any other character, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross has to deal with the weight of responsibility. All the other soldiers experience death and horror, but they also all seem to take solace in the senselessness of war. Because he is in charge of the platoon, however, Jimmy Cross blames himself for every soldier’s death. Mitchell Sanders – Sanders is one of the most likeable soldiers in the platoon, and the one who makes the greatest impression on the narrator. Sanders is kind, devoted to his fellow soldiers, and possesses a keen sense of justice. He makes his impression on O’Brien by serving as the platoon’s chief storyteller and story critic. As such, Sanders is a kind of father figure in the book, guiding the narrator towards his own revelations about memory and writing.
Kiowa – Kiowa is the narrator’s best friend in the platoon, who dies when the platoon mistakenly camps in a latrine on the banks of the Song Tra Bong. Kiowa’s death is given greater prominence in the text than his life. When Kiowa does speak, he is shown to be a character of great compassion and intelligence. His death, more than any of the others, speaks of the senseless cruelty of the war. Norman Bowker – Norman Bowker is a quiet soldier during the war, and we learn that a few years after the war, he commits suicide. Bowker embodies the damage that the characters carry with them even after the war is over. His story, particularly his letters to the narrator, demonstrate the importance of talking, and of sharing burdens. Henry Dobbins – Dobbins is the platoon’s hulking machine-gunner. He is a fairly constant presence in the book, but does not occupy a position of real significance. His profound decency seems out of place with his big, bearish frame, and he serves as a prime example of the incongruities that one encounters in these stories. Bob “Rat” Kiley – the platoon’s medic. The narrator has great respect for Kiley, especially for his medical prowess and nerve. There are two moments, however, when Kiley displays disturbing violence and instability. Curt Lemon – Lemon is a soldier whose death hangs over the book. The narrator paints an unlikable portrait of Lemon, but thinks of his death with a great deal of sadness and regret. The gruesome scene of Lemon’s death is one of the narrator’s most complex and tragic images of the inexplicable horror of war.
Ted Lavender – Ted Lavender is the first soldier to die in the book, and although he only appears for a brief instant, his ghost hangs over the rest of the text. Before his death, Lavender is young and constantly terrified, and takes tranquilizers as a way of dealing with the fear. His death seems almost inevitable from the start. Lee Strunk – Strunk is another soldier in the platoon, a minor character who dies in “Friends” when he steps on a mortar round. Strunk’s only other significant appearance is his brief, tense trip into a Vietnamese tunnel. Dave Jensen – Jensen is a minor character in the platoon, who is never fully developed. Jense is only a significant character in two stories, “Friends” and “Enemies”, in which Jensen’s complex relationship with Strunk is portrayed. Azar – Azar is one of the few truly unsympathetic characters in the book. He appears infrequently, but when he does, he is invariably mean-spirited and cruel.
At the end of “In the Field,” however, Azar apologizes for jokes made about Kiowa. Kathleen – Although the narrator alludes to having multiple children, Kathleen is the only child of his that we meet. She is always young and innocent, and the narrator has to explain to her why the war happened, and what it means. These explanations, tailored to Kathleen’s youthful simplicity, always give the narrator a new perspective on his memories.Mary Anne Bell – Mary Anne Bell comes to Vietnam full of innocence, but the experience transforms her into a killer, and eventually into a spirit of the Vietnamese wilderness. CHARACTER in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The narrator – Ultimately, The Things They Carried is more about its narrator than anybody else, and although it feels at times like a book about war, it is ultimately a book about the narrator’s coming to terms with his past. Although the narrator is frequently called “Tim,” or “O’Brien,” the author and the narrator are not entirely the same person. Unlike O’Brien’s work If I Die in a Combat Zone (Box Me Up and Ship Me Home), The Things They Carried is deliberately not an autobiography. Jimmy Cross – More than any other character, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross has to deal with the weight of responsibility. All the other soldiers experience death and horror, but they also all seem to take solace in the senselessness of war. Because he is in charge of the platoon, however, Jimmy Cross blames himself for every soldier’s death. Mitchell Sanders – Sanders is one of the most likeable soldiers in the platoon, and the one who makes the greatest impression on the narrator. Sanders is kind, devoted to his fellow soldiers, and possesses a keen sense of justice. He makes his impression on O’Brien by serving as the platoon’s chief storyteller and story critic. As such, Sanders is a kind of father figure in the book, guiding the narrator towards his own revelations about memory and writing.
Kiowa – Kiowa is the narrator’s best friend in the platoon, who dies when the platoon mistakenly camps in a latrine on the banks of the Song Tra Bong. Kiowa’s death is given greater prominence in the text than his life. When Kiowa does speak, he is shown to be a character of great compassion and intelligence. His death, more than any of the others, speaks of the senseless cruelty of the war. Norman Bowker – Norman Bowker is a quiet soldier during the war, and we learn that a few years after the war, he commits suicide. Bowker embodies the damage that the characters carry with them even after the war is over. His story, particularly his letters to the narrator, demonstrate the importance of talking, and of sharing burdens. Henry Dobbins – Dobbins is the platoon’s hulking machine-gunner. He is a fairly constant presence in the book, but does not occupy a position of real significance. His profound decency seems out of place with his big, bearish frame, and he serves as a prime example of the incongruities that one encounters in these stories. Bob “Rat” Kiley – the platoon’s medic. The narrator has great respect for Kiley, especially for his medical prowess and nerve. There are two moments, however, when Kiley displays disturbing violence and instability. Curt Lemon – Lemon is a soldier whose death hangs over the book. The narrator paints an unlikable portrait of Lemon, but thinks of his death with a great deal of sadness and regret. The gruesome scene of Lemon’s death is one of the narrator’s most complex and tragic images of the inexplicable horror of war.
Ted Lavender – Ted Lavender is the first soldier to die in the book, and although he only appears for a brief instant, his ghost hangs over the rest of the text. Before his death, Lavender is young and constantly terrified, and takes tranquilizers as a way of dealing with the fear. His death seems almost inevitable from the start. Lee Strunk – Strunk is another soldier in the platoon, a minor character who dies in “Friends” when he steps on a mortar round. Strunk’s only other significant appearance is his brief, tense trip into a Vietnamese tunnel. Dave Jensen – Jensen is a minor character in the platoon, who is never fully developed. Jense is only a significant character in two stories, “Friends” and “Enemies”, in which Jensen’s complex relationship with Strunk is portrayed. Azar – Azar is one of the few truly unsympathetic characters in the book. He appears infrequently, but when he does, he is invariably mean-spirited and cruel. At the end of “In the Field,” however, Azar apologizes for jokes made about Kiowa. Kathleen – Although the narrator alludes to having multiple children, Kathleen is the only child of his that we meet. She is always young and innocent, and the narrator has to explain to her why the war happened, and what it means. These explanations, tailored to Kathleen’s youthful simplicity, always give the narrator a new perspective on his memories.Mary Anne Bell – Mary Anne Bell comes to Vietnam full of innocence, but the experience transforms her into a killer, and eventually into a spirit of the Vietnamese wilderness.

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