The Things They Carried Essay Topics: 10 Best Suggestions To Choose From

Tim O’Brien’s collection of short stories “The Things They Carried” are about lives and events of an American platoon during the Vietnam War. Most characters are autobiographical and depict the horrors of the men who fought a seemingly endless war. Here are the top 10 essay topics to choose from:

  1. Discuss how the story based on O’Brien’s childhood relates to the rest of the stories. What do you think O’Brien intended by ending the collection in this way?
  2. Most of the stories are presented in the first person voice. How does the few instances of a third person voice affect the collection of stories? Could the stories be presented in a different perspective and have the same effect?
  3. Discuss the structure of the collection. Are the stories presented in a linear method or are they more fragmented than first perceived? Can the stories be read outside of their order and have the same effect?
  4. What are the major characters, outside of O’Brien? How do they factor into the telling of how the stories unfurl? Are there other characters that stand out as leads in the stories?
  5. There is a story in titled The Man I Killed doesn’t explicitly talk about O’Brien’s experience in killing someone in Vietnam. So did this event actually happen? What is the purpose of this ambiguity?
  6. There is only one story, The Man I Killed, that has a primary focus on Vietnamese character. Why do you believe that Vietnamese characters are mostly absent from the rest of the stories?
  7. What do the phrases “happening-truth” and “story-truth” mean in the context of the entire collection? How are these phrases different? Are there other key terms we can apply to explain how the stories present major themes?
  8. Discuss the concept of carrying in Tim O’Brien’s stories. For instance, what things are carried and by whom? What is O’Brien trying to say by this?
  9. What role do women have in the collection of stories? They play a small role but there are a few characters that have significant roles in the plot. Who are they and how do they affect the plot?
  10. What role does the concept of shame have in the author’s portrayal of the Vietnam War? Is this a universal feeling across most modern wars or is this limited to those who fought in Vietnam?

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