Quotes: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - Quotation Analysis|
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4) “Right then, with the shore so close, I understood that I
would not do what I should do. I would not swim away from my hometown
and my country and my life. I would not be brave. That old image of myself
as a hero, as a man of conscience and courage, all that was just a threadbare
pipe dream.” (Page 57)
Commentary: While out fishing on the Rainy River, O’Brien reaches a
crucial point of self-realization. See Themes - The Nature of Courage
5) “True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in
abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration
the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because
it generalizes, I can’t believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside.
It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes
the stomach believe.” (Page 78)
Commentary: See Themes - The Power of Language
6) “Mary Anne made you think about all those girls back home,
how clean and innocent they are, how they’ll never understand any of this,
not in a billion years. Try to tell them about it, they’ll just stare
at you with those big round candy eyes. They won’t understand zip. It’s
like trying to tell someone what chocolate tastes like.” (Page 113)
Commentary: Rat Kiley talking about the sense of isolation soldiers feel from their peers back in the United States. While friends are working at fast food restaurant of going to college, these boys are killing people and blowing things up. They have little in common with former friends when they return.
7) “The town could not talk and would not listen. “How’d you
like to hear about the war?” he might have asked, but the place could
only blink and shrug. It had no memory, therefore no guilt. The taxes
got paid and the votes got counted and the agencies of the government
did their work briskly and politely. It was a brisk, polite town. It did
not know shit about shit, and it did not care to know. (Page 143)
Commentary: A scathing criticism of attitudes towards the war on the home
front. America grew increasingly weary of a war that seemed to make no
progress and be no closer to the end than to the beginning. Many Americans
who had supported the war and expected young people to fight, then gave
these young soldiers a thankless homecoming years later. Since the war
was ultimately not successful, many people chose to pretend it had never
happened at all. Unfortunately, for the soldiers who had killed, and bled,
and sacrificed years of their youth, this was not as easy.
8) “He wished he could’ve explained some of this. How he had
been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so
brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.” (Page 153)
Commentary: Another exploration into the nature of bravery. Each of us has
a different standard for courage. When Norman reflects on his past deeds,
he realizes he has outdone his own expectations for himself, yet he was
not brave enough to pull Kiowa out of the muck or earn the Silver Star.
This, of course, does not mean that he wasn’t brave, only that he won’t
be recognized for bravery.
9) “Twenty years. A lot like yesterday, a lot like never. In
a way, maybe, I’d gone under with Kiowa, and now after two decades I’d
finally worked myself out. A hot afternoon, a bright August sun, and the
war was over.” (Page 187)
Commentary: See Themes - Redemption
10) “Azar shrugged. After a second he reached out and clapped
me on the shoulder, not roughly but not gently either. ‘What’s real?’
he said. ‘Eight months in fantasyland, it tends to blur the line. Honest
to God, I sometimes can’t remember what real is.” (Page
Commentary: Azar exemplifies the problems created when you give an American
teenager an automatic rifle and throw him into a situation where normal
laws of civilization do not apply. Because of his youth and immaturity,
Azar begins to forget the established norms of everyday life and accept
Vietnam as his new reality - a fantasyland for violent youth.
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Strate, Shane. "TheBestNotes on The Things They Carried".
. 19 May 2008