The Things They Carried Conclusion | FreebookSummary (2023)

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2/18/14 3rd Literary Analysis Essay Dead Weight Fiction is usually separated into two main categories; literary and commercial fiction. For a work of fiction to be considered literary fiction, it must force the reader to ponder real-world issues and actively participate in the story, all while digging through deep symbolism and ambiguity.

Literary fiction also leaves the reader with an indeterminate or unhappy ending; unlike its opposite, commercial fiction, which is made solely to coin a profit and entertain the masses.Commercial fiction usually portrays the perfect life and allows the reader to escape his or her own reality and often closes with a “fairy tale” ending (Arp and Johnson 62). The short story “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’brien is an example of literary fiction. This piece of literature is literary fiction because the story forces the reader to reflect about modern issues such as war and obsession, provides deep symbolism throughout the text, and ends indeterminately and unhappily.The story begins by introducing Jimmy Cross, a first lieutenant during the Vietnam War, and his love for a college student named Martha from back home. The story tells us that Jimmy loves this girl, but the feeling is not mutual. The story proceeds to list several things the soldiers in Jimmy’s platoon carry, such as food, ammo, and radio equipment.

Every item that is listed is also giving its weight, and throughout the story, weight is emphasized. It continues by explaining a date Martha and Jimmy went on in high school. Jimmy’s love for Martha seems almost obsessive and becomes an obstacle later in the story.When one of Lieutenant Cross’ men, Ted Lavender is killed in action, Jimmy begins to blame himself because Ted had been killed while he was day dreaming about her.

The story ends when Jimmy burns his letters from Martha to better guide the men in his platoon (O’Brien 625-636). Tim O’Brien’s short story “The Things They Carried,” is an obvious example of literary fiction just based on the topic of the story. The story explains the hardships and horrors of war. Some people may argue that this story is a love story, but most do not believe it to be so.The story is more about Jimmy Cross overcoming his obsession with Martha to better lead his men. The short story forces the reader to actively ponder real-world issues, such as war, by plunging them into Vietnam alongside Jimmy Cross, his men, and the things they carried.

The way that O’Brien explained Ted Lavender’s death is as blunt as possible. “Ted Lavender was shot in the head on his way back from peeing. He lay with his mouth open. The teeth were broken. There was a swollen black bruise under his left eye. The cheekbone was gone.

Oh shit, Rat Kiley said, the guy’s dead” (O’Brien 630).There was no sugar coating in the way Ted died, so O’Brien explained it without any. This adds to the realism of the story and gives insight to the brutality of war, which is another reason this story is

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literary fiction. Another reason that this short story is a prime example of literary fiction is the deep symbolism present throughout the story. Every item that the soldiers carry symbolize the emotional burdens they all bear. All the letters that Cross carries with him symbolize his obsession with Martha, and when he finally burns them, it represents him giving her up to become a better leader to the men in his platoon.

There is also symbolism in the weight of all the objects that the soldiers carried. It seems that the smaller the item the more it weighed on them emotionally. The letters and pictures that Jimmy Cross carry only weighed a few ounces, but his obsession with Martha weighs him down more than his 6. 7-pound flak jacket and all the ammunition he carries. When Ted Lavender is killed, the nature in which he fell, “Like cement, Kiowa whispered in the dark.

I swear to God—boom, down. Not a word” (O’Brien 632) symbolizes Jimmy’s world crashing down upon him as he is forced to choose between Martha and his men.In this story burden and weight are emphasized throughout its entirety. Lavender falling like cement shows that he was heavy with not only equipment, but also with the emotional baggage that he, all the other soldiers carried. “He went down under an exceptional burden, more than 20 pounds of ammunition, plus the flak jacket and helmet and rations and water and toilet paper and tranquilizers and all the rest, plus the unweighed fear.

He was dead weight” (Pg. 627). Ted Lavender is not only carrying the burden of his gear, he is also carrying his fear, much as Lieutenant Cross carries his love for Martha.One sure way of telling if a piece of literature is literary fiction or commercial fiction is to analyze the ending.

If the story ends indeterminately where the reader is required to make his or her own conclusion, it is literary fiction, but if ends cheerfully or like a “fairy tale,” then it is most likely commercial fiction (Arp and Johnson 62). “The Things They Carried” definitely does not end on a happy note. Someone died, and Jimmy Cross is forced to choose between his love and his men.The story ends indeterminately as well because readers do not know what happened to Jimmy and his men, and whether or not he gave up on Martha even after the war. “The Things They Carried” ends on this note,” And if anyone quarreled or complained, he would simply tighten his lips and arrange his shoulders in the correct command posture.

He might give a curt little nod. Or he might not. He might just shrug and say, carry on, then they would saddle up and form into a column and move out toward the villages west of Than Khe” (O’Brien 636).This ending is a textbook example of how works of literary fiction should end.

It leaves the reader wondering what happened to Jimmy Cross and his men after the war, but never gives away the answer. In conclusion, the short story “The Things They Carried,”

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by Tim O’Brien is literary fiction due to how the story plunges the reader into the lives of soldiers and forces them to think about issues such as life, death, and war, the strong symbolism scattered throughout the story, and the ambiguous and unhappy ending that the author leaves readers with.This piece of literature is as timeless as every great novel because war, suffering, and death will always be a part of our society, and it is beneficial to ponder on topics like these.

Works Cited Arp, Thomas R, and Greg Johnson, eds. Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. 9th ed. Boston: Rosenburg, 2002. Print. O’Brien, Tim “The Things They Carried. ” Literature An Introduction To Fiction, Poetry, Drama, And Writing.

Ed. XJ Kennedy and Dana Gioia, 10th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. 567-73.


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