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ENG214H5 (11)

“The Things They Carried” - O'Brien

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Daniela Janes

“The Things They Carried” - O'Brien – the use value of stories – how stories are put together and taken apart – formal issues in terms of specific short story cycles vs. novels or stand alone stories – the need to place text within particular categories – quite clearly genre defining short story cycle – thinking of beginnings and endings – meta-narrative texts – how a text comments upon it's own status as an artifact – awareness as status of being written down – ask questions about novelist's purpose – conflation of the text and producing the text – scrupulous coherence – discontinuity – rupture – fragmentary text – see what is at stake at telling the story – how men die at war seen from multiple POVs – see narratives – burden of the memories of the witnesses – very post-Modern work of fiction – historiographic meta-fiction – coined by Linda Hutchin – writing of history (historiography) – commenting on how history is written – our attempts at classification – insistence of fictionality being offered here – Awork of fiction by O'Brien – sense of slippage – dedication – we read the characters as real, but this is fiction – imbedded writer character (Tim O'Brien) – both born in the same place – same education – same occupation – same age – series of overlap between imbedded O'Brien and author O'Brien – opens space for him to be autobiographical and separate being outside of the text – only the imbedded O'Brien has a daughter, Kathleen – indicator that not quite autobiographical – epigraph – truth value of the narrative – event the fictional parts are rooted in a fragmentary memory that is true – emphasis on the truth in the fiction “The Things They Carried” – 3 person omniscient narrator – extra-diagetic – outside of the work – introduction to the important themes and motifs that will return throughout the cycle – weight – real things they hump through – other intangible things they carry with them – memory – one of the weights that is carried – what it means to bear witness to something – what kind of responsibility comes with that – moral responsibility – reality vs. fantasy – Martha – binary of here vs. there – Martha can't understand what Jimmy is going through – c.f. Epigraph – two kinds of readers – masculinity – how manhood is defined – cowardice and shame make smart man do stupid thing and go to war – how men in desperate times call to Jesus – c.f. vignette in Hemingway – talking vs. silence – foregrounds the writer – men at the front who either talk or don't talk about what they are going throug – text begins in quasi-romantic way – Jimmy meditating about Martha – moment of quibbling about language – language is unreliable – love doesn't mean what you think it does – not the kind of love Jimmy wishes it was – preoccupation with language – love becomes an unreliable word – idea that words can hide – undermining reliability of words – words written down doesn't necessarily make it true – list of men and the items they carried – their lives are public yet they maintain private dignity and separateness – SOP = standard operating procedure – the use of military jargon – language lays down borders of community – either you are in it
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