Research Paper


Eng 102


24 March 2003


After reading short stories such as “Barn Burning,” “The Things They Carried,” and “I Stand Here Ironing,” these works made me wonder what the authors were thinking when they wrote these short stories. The short summary before each story do tell some facts about the author, which gives the reader an explanation for where the author is coming from when he or she writes the short story. However, these short biographies left me wanting to learn more information about the authors. The one short story that raises the most questions is “The Things They Carried,” written by Tim O’Brien in 1990.


O’Brien is one of many writers who wrote about the Vietnam War, but one of the few that uses first hand experiences in his stories. This element adds in the effectiveness of the short story. The great detail of the war front in Vietnam made me feel like I was part of the platoon, which was at risk each and every day they stepped outside of their bases. Almost all of his stories involve a war-like experience or situation.


This story provides great relevance to me today because of the situation that our country is involved in over in Iraq. During this particular time in our country today many parallels are created with the War today and the Vietnam War. I believe we all need to learn as much as we can about our country’s history in order to understand the situation we are currently involved. O’Brien uses his literary techniques to help give the reader a sense of understanding what the troops go through during war. I have always been intrigued with stories about personal war experiences or books describing the time line of events that took place. Before our country invaded Iraq many people in our country were divided about our relationship with Iraq. Now it is time for the citizens of the United States of America to support our troops, who are giving their lives to fight for something they believe in. Especially since American troops have started to lose their lives in operation freedom. Many of the scenes in “The Things They Carried” can relate to the same situation the troops in Iraq may feel while marching through the desert. I feel that O’Brien is the perfect author to study and learn more about his background during this somber time in our country.


The only information that I know about Tim O’Brien is from the short biography listed before the story. This information states that O’Brien was born on 1947 in Austin, Minnesota. He received his education from Macalester College then went to Harvard University to further his education. O’Brien won the national book award for “Going After Cacciato” in 1978. His short story, “The Things They Carried,” that I choose to analyze was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. After reading the story, I knew that he served in the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam War back in the 1970’s.


The short story “The Things They Carried” poses many questions and made me feel the need for more information. I want to know what inspired O’Brien to start writing about the Vietnam War when he returned. What his actual role in the Vietnam War was and why he decided to join the army are also questions in my mind. From the story was did he decide to write about the items the soldiers carried during battle. Also what other stories has O’Brien written about his war experiences? Through research I hope to find when O’Brien became serious about writing? What was O’Brien’s opinion on the war and did he every feel that they were fighting for the wrong reasons? Was their ever a moment in the war when he mentally lost focus or did he use writing as a relaxation technique? Many of these questions I will try to answer from research.


Doing research takes many hours of concentration and time sorting through sources that are relevant to the topic. I first started to use the electronic card catalog through Pepperdine express from the library. This attempt was unsuccessful and only retrieved information that had no significance to my topic. Every time I have used the card catalog