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The Things They Carried
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The conflicts in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien:
The most obvious conflict in this story is the Vietnam War. The characters, setting, and everything that happens, revolves around the war. Basically U.S . troops are sent to Vietnam in Asia in March, 1965. Over the next 10 years, more than 1.2 million Americans were in the war, and almost 60,000 Americans died. Besides the physical conflict and fighting that went on, there was a philosophical conflict especially back home. The war was not supported by many people because they thought it was wrong to send troops there.
One of the huge conflicts with the Vietnam War is that it was different from other wars Americans had fought in. A comparison to a game of checkers demonstrates this. Norman Bowker and Henry Dobbins often played checkers. Tim O'Brien comments on how there are red & black checkers with one winner and one loser. The board has no tunnels. or mountains, or jungles. Everything was out in the open. Vietnam was nothing like this and it caused conflict within the soldiers. The uncertainty about the future and about the enemy and about the purpose of even being there was tough on the soldiers.
Tim's early conflict in the story had to do with inner turmoil of whether he should go to Vietnam or not. He takes time after he is drafted to go to Rainy River to think about things. He was against the war in college, writing articles in the newspaper about it, although not taking a strong stance. When he got drafted he was terrified to die, especially in a war he did not support. An option for him was to move to Canada and escape the war. He spent almost a week deciding what to do. One of his inner conflicts then was whether to please himself by not going to war or pleasing his family and townspeople by going to war. He knew it was expected of him to go whether he wanted to or not. In the end, the fear of embarassment forced him to decide to go to Vietnam.
Another conflict in the story was being a soldier versus being a civilian. After Tim was injured and was transferred to lighter duty, he felt more like a civilian. When his buddies came to visit him, he felt like he didn't belong with them anymore. He felt anger and a loss inside him. Some of the other characters also felt that same conflict after the war. They had changed so much from the war that they didn't fit in with American society. Norman Bowker's suicide is an example of this.
There were many conflicts in this story both external and internal. The physical fighting was not limited to shooting the enemy. Lee Strunk and Dave Jensen got into a bad fist fight. Tim O'Brien and Bobby Jorgensen had a battle going on, and there was constant bickering among the men. There were also inner battles going on in each man's head. Issues of courage, blame, shjame, and doing the right thing were present. Some of these conflicts were resolved, but many were not.
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