Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Things They Carried Essay Discussion questions

Suggested Essay Topics

1. “The Man I Killed” is the only story that focuses primarily on a Vietnamese character. Why does this shift in focus occur in this particular story? Why are Vietnamese characters largely absent from the rest of the text?

2. Although the work is supposedly about the Vietnam war, the final story focuses not on the war but on an episode from O’Brien’s childhood. Discuss how this story relates to the stories of the war. What is O’Brien’s purpose in ending his collection of stories this way?

3. What do the terms “story-truth” and “happening-truth” mean in the context of the book? How do they differ?

4. Although The Things They Carried contains a story called “The Man I Killed,” it is unclear whether O’Brien actually killed anyone in Vietnam. What purpose does this ambiguity serve?

5. How does shame fit into O’Brien’s portrayal of the war experience?

6. Discuss the structure of the work. Do the stories progress in a linear manner? How does the work’s fragmented style contribute to the themes that run through the stories?

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