Teacher Notes on The Things They Carried Use them as you read!!



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"In the Field"

"In the Field" takes "the story about the story" technique one step further. Now that the reader knows the "true" story about what happened to Kiowa, she can view the aftermath of the evening with a sense of dramatic irony. The reader is shown several characters who feel responsibility and guilt over the death of Kiowa. Lt. Jimmy Cross, a young soldier, Azar and Norman Bowker. Norman at one point says, "Nobody's fault. . . . Everybody's." The added irony that only comes from the knowledge the reader has received from "Notes" is that it is Tim O'Brien, the narrator, who should express the personal guilt, but is not saying a word in this story. Norman Bowker's comments take on a profounder meaning because we see that the pain he will eventually not be able to cope with comes from his association with the events and not from the actual abandonment of Kiowa. But none of this really matters because it is all a fiction. The events in fiction do not matter because they are made up. They do not matter. What does matter is that the theme is true. Everybody needed to share in the responsibility.

When a man died, there had to be blame. Jimmy Cross understood this. You could blame the war. You could blame the idiots who made the war. You could blame Kiowa for going to it. You could blame the rain. You could blame the river. You could blame the field, the mud, the climate. You could blame the enemy. You could blame the mortar rounds. You could blame people who were too lazy to read a newspaper, who were bored by the daily body counts, who switched channels at the mention of politics. You could blame whole nations. You could blame God. You could blame the munitions makers or Karl Marx or a trick of fate or an old man in Omaha who forgot to vote.



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