Review #105 // The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien was drafted into the Vietnam War, a war he didn’t believe in, and didn’t want to fight for. While there, he joins the Alpha Team, where he meets a wide variety of people, and the events that happened while there end up changing his life.

Why this book?: AP Lit assignment. Don’t really know what I was expecting…

I have to admit, that I enjoyed The Things They Carried much more than I do the average novel I’m assigned. I thought I’d end up with a similar opinion of it as I had with Into the Wild, because, for some odd reason, they seemed similar in my mind. The Things They Carried is a visceral tale of the Vietnam War, showing us the horrors with multiple brutal twists. It’s one of the elements that I loved the most–the brutality O’Brien gave the story, and, the best part, the reasoning why he gave it such brutality. O’Brien said a lot of thoughtful pieces, but he made it point clear whenever he explained anything. The story was brutal because that’s how it was in reality.

O’Brien’s words really makes you sit back and consider the word ‘truth’. What we consider the truth, what others consider the truth, it all depends on who we are and how we deal with events. O’Brien often delved into the personal truth vs reality, and what he had to say was very interesting. I loved how he would make these broad statements just from his experiences in Vietnam, and how he connected his experiences to his judgement of people, actions, and events.

It should be known that while O’Brien himself did fight in the Vietnam War, he confessed that the majority of the book is fiction. The Things They Carried is a strange mixture between fiction and non-fiction. While O’Brien did fight, what he wrote about was fake. But this then goes into the personal truth vs reality again, so I can’t really say where the non-fiction ends and the fiction begins.

Final Rating: ★★★★☆


The Things They Carried was a pleasantly surprising read. It’s a very brutal and eye-opening tale that makes you consider everything. It got fairly slow at points, and other times I really didn’t see the reasons to including a chapter, but I ultimately really enjoyed this read–more than other required reads.

Would I Recommend?

I would, if you’re looking for a book to learn more about the effect of Vietnam rather than the events. It was a very emotional, vulgar, and brutal novel though, and would recommend with caution.

Trigger warnings for explicit/heavy gore, detailed descriptions of gore, explicit/heavy violence,  implied torture, animal abuse, mentions of suicide, death, and murder. (I may have missed some, so please update me if you know any others.)

The Things They Carried

Additional Information:

Published: March 28th, 1990

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Page Count: 246

Genre: Non-fiction/Fiction/Historical

Synopsis: via Goodreads

They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.