Free Study Guide: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - Free BookNotes|
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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED: LESSON PLAN / BOOK REPORT
Dobbins is symbolic of the United States. Powerful, blundering, but
with the right intentions. O’Brien saw Americans clinging to their simplistic
notions that the war would bring democracy to Asia just as Dobbins hung
on to his nylon stockings. But he doesn’t completely discount the power
of this sentimentality. Dobbins remained convinced of the stockings’ protective
energy even after the supposed source of that energy, his girlfriend’s
love, abandons him. By this time, the pantyhose myth has grown too powerful
to be discredited.
One afternoon, the platoon came across a pagoda inhabited by only two monks, and they decided to make it their base of operations. When they dug their foxholes, the monks smiled and made a strange washing motion with their hands. Over the next few days, they developed a relationship with the monks, who spoke very little English. The monks hauled water for their baths and presented them with watermelons out of a nearby garden. The GI’s taught the monks how to clean and assemble their rifles, and gave them chocolate bars and cans of peaches in return.
Over time, Dobbins began to develop a kinship with the monks and talked about becoming a monk after the war. He’d thought about becoming a priest as a kid. He enjoyed being nice to people, visiting the sick. He could be good at that. He’d decided against it because of the need to preach sermons and explain why bad things happened to good people. The brainy part was not for him, but he’d be fine with the people part. If he were a monk, he thought, we could just wear robes, be nice to people, and enjoy the tranquility of the countryside.
Dobbins agreed with Kiowa that it was wrong for the soldiers to be setting
up camp in a pagoda. No matter what the religion, it was still a church,
and they were violating its sanctity. The most important thing, they concluded,
was to treat the people well.
A continuation of the Dobbins-USA metaphor. Church, for him, is not about
theology and the eternal questions of the hereafter. It’s about treating
people with kindness. He may not understand Vietnamese history, or communism,
or colonialism, or what he’s accomplishing in the war, but he’s content
to just try and “treat the people nice” and hope things will work out.
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Strate, Shane. "TheBestNotes on The Things They Carried".
. 09 May 2017