The Things They Carried

This study guide will help you analyze the text “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message, and perspectives.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Things They Carried”
Author: Tim O’Brien
Published in: The Things They Carried (collection)
Date of Publication: 1990
Genre: Short story

Tim O’Brien (b. 1946) is an American author. His most famous literary work is the short-story collection called The Things They Carried, which is based on O’Brien’s experiences during the Vietnam War.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


First of all, note that the title of the short story is also the title of the collection of stories about the military experiences in Vietnam. Secondly, the title “The Things They Carried” refers to the fact that the story is in part an extensive list of everything the soldiers carry with them during their missions in Vietnam.

As Lieutenant Jimmy Cross illustrates, some of these things are physical, like the letters and the photographs from Martha

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. 

According to their personal interests and areas of expertise, other soldiers carry personal items, along with the necessary ammunition


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The Things They Carried

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