Teacher Notes on The Things They Carried Use them as you read!!
First and foremost: This is a novel. This is fiction. I know the narrator's name is Tim O'Brien. But the author, Tim O'Brien, created a character called Tim O'Brien.I know that the book is dedicated to the people who are named as characters in the novel. But the author does this to give a sense of reality to the story.
Remember The Blair Witch Project? Everything about that film was there to make the viewer think that the deaths in the woods really happened. There was an introduction that indicated that the film students were never found, but their video tape was. Everything was there to set you up to create the atmosphere of reality. But it wasn't real, was it? Tim O'Brien does the same thing in this novel and he does it very effectively. There are many realistic details. This is called verisimilitude.
Remember that the novel is an art form. The purpose of art is to give you a view of reality. The creators of art want you to understand reality a little better than you did before. To do this, the artist may give you a realistic view to help you see her point or another artist may give you fantasy. Either one is just an impression of reality. Real life is real life. Everything else, a picture,-- a poem, a song, or even a newspaper article, or evena news video,-- is just an interpretation of reality. The picture an artist paints is just a picture the way the artist sees it. A poem uses only the words the artist wants to use. Even a news video shows you only what the reporter wants you to see. It is not the same as real life.
Tim O'Brien, the author, wants to play with your head. He wants you to believe that what he says about the characters is true. If you believe that what he says about the characters is true, you will also tend to believe that his view points are true. If that happens, he has you! He has written a story that makes you think the thoughts he wants you to think and he may just change your mind about some things you once thought were true. He wants to change your mind. He wants you to see the world the way he sees the world. This is his intent. But, he is not being diabolical about this. He is merely doing what all artists, writers, singers, actors, dancers, painters, musicians, advertisers, do every day.
Didn't you know? People have been working to take control of your mind and thoughts since you were born. It's about time you started to make darn sure you were aware of it. It is OK to change your mind. It is OK to let someone convince you that you should change your mind. But you should be aware it is happening. That is your responsibility.