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The Things They Carried: Page 188

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The Things They Carried: Page 188

Post  Admin on September 26th 2008, 11:58 am

"The Man I Killed," "Ambush.," & "Good Form"

(1) When Tim O'Brien introduces the subject of "The Man I Killed," he does it with the following description. Why does he start here? Why use these details? "His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star-shaped hole, his eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman's, his nose was undamaged, there was a slight tear at the lobe of one ear, his clean black hair was swept upward into a cowlick at the rear of the skull," etc.

(2) "The Man I Killed" describes fairly intimate aspects of the dead man's life? Where do these details come from? How can Tim O'Brien know them? What is going on here? "(From) his earliest boyhood the man I killed had listened to stories about the heroic Trung sisters and Tran Hung Dao's famous rout of the Mongols and Le Loi's final victory against the Chinese at Tot Dong. He had been taught that to defend the land was a man's highest duty and highest privilege. He accepted this," etc.

(3) For the remainder of the story O'Brien portrays himself as profoundly moved by this death: "Later Kiowa said, 'I'm serious. Nothing anybody could do. Come on, Tim, stop staring." How would out describe O'Brien's emotional state in this scene?

(4) In "Ambush," Tim O'Brien's daughter, Kathleen, asks if he ever killed a man: "'You keep writing these war stories,' she said, 'so I guess you must've killed somebody.'" Following this, O'Brien relates two possible scenarios of the death described in "The Man I Killed" to explain, "This is why I keep writing war stories." In your opinion, why does O'Brien keep writing war stories?

(5) Reread "Good Form" (it's extremely short). In it, O'Brien tells two more versions of "The Man I Killed" story. In the first, Tim simply sees a dead soldier, the one with the star-shaped hole in his cheek, laying at the side of the road. "I did not kill him." Following this, O'Brien admits "even that story is made up." In the second version, he explains the he merely saw many faceless, dead men. Where does truth reside in this book? What is the connection between O'Brien's actual experiences and the events in this book? Why is O'Brien using lies to get at "the truth"?

(6) In "Ambush," O'Brien tells part of "The Man I Killed" story to his daughter, Kathleen. Consider that O'Brien might not actually have a daughter. Would that change how you felt about the story? If he doesn't have a daughter, what is she doing in this novel?



"Speaking of Courage" & "Notes"

(1) To begin with, why is this story called "Speaking of Courage"? Assume the title does NOT hold any irony. In what sense does this story speak of courage?

(2) Why does Norman Bowker still feel inadequate with seven medals? And why is Norman's father such a presence in his mental life? Would it really change Norman's life if he had eight medals, the silver star, etc.?

(3) What is the more difficult problem for Norman--the lack of the silver star or the death of Kiowa? Which does he consider more and why?

(4) Like other male characters in this novel (for example, Tim O'Brien and Lt. Jimmy Cross), Norman Bowker develops an active fantasy life. Why do these men develop these fantasy roles? What do they get from telling these fantasy stories to themselves?

(5) Why is Norman unable to relate to anyone at home? More importantly, why doesn't he even try?

(6) In "Notes," Tim O'Brien receives a letter from Norman Bowker, the main character in "Speaking of Courage." Why does O'Brien choose to include excerpts of this seventeen page letter in this book? What does it accomplish?

(7) Consider for a moment that the letter might be made-up, a work of fiction. Why include it then?

(Cool In "Notes," Tim O'Brien says, "You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain it." What does this tell you about O'Brien's understanding of the way fiction relates to real life?


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Speaking of Courage & Notes: Questions 1-4

Post  Meghan43 on September 26th 2008, 12:47 pm

Meghan, Allie, and Jeff

(1)The story reinforces the ideas that you never know when you’re going to be courageous. Even though Norman wanted to save Kiowa he feels he didn’t have the courage at that time. Courage doesn’t mean you were successful, there doesn’t need to be any witnesses, courage is simply within a person. It can also imply that the army doesn’t recognize this courage (even though he was courageous for trying) unless an individual is successful and proves his courage.

(2)He would still be pretty messed up from the war. That last medal would mean he had one more friend throughout the war; it represents the people he really cared for. Having any more medals would not change the way he felt about Kiowa’s death. He still lost Kiowa; he still would’ve felt guilty. It’s not the medal that would keep him happy it’s the actions that led to the medal that would be significant in his life. His father had already experienced a war, he had “fought his own war” and so Norman felt that his father was the one person he could truly talk about the war with. His father will understand his experiences.

(3)In the story Norman Bowker considers the lack of the Silver Star more heavily because it is easier to deal with, he can cover up the fact that he could’ve saved somebody. The fact that he could’ve saved Kiowa is probably more significant in his mind but he chooses to talk about the loss of Silver Star with people rather than talk about the loss of a friend.

(4)The soldiers create these fantasies to help them deal with the war. It’s their way of blocking out what’s really happening they choose to think of better times at home instead of dwelling on what’s currently happening in the war. By telling these stories they are able to use them as a release from the war.


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Re: The Things They Carried: Page 188

Post  kconheady on September 26th 2008, 12:47 pm

Biz, Kate, Elyssia, Paul, Katy, William, Angeline, Zoe, Chiara

5. The situation in Vietnam was so severe; it was a situation in which you had to be to understand, it could not be conveyed in words. At the same time, the people in his perfect little town did not want to hear his stories. Even if they actually did, he didn’t think that they would.

6. It adds to the verisimilitude of the piece. It is Tim’s way of playing with the audience; you cannot tell what is true and what didn’t actually happen. What is real, and what is just a work of fiction? Tim has to make you believe that it is not real in order to have you believe the truths he is telling. We are not moved to dissect each piece as if it was non fiction.

7. By including the letter, we believe the whole thing, even if we are told that there is no Norman Bowker who never almost won a silver star (People want to hear stories of valour; people do not want to hear about stories of people dying.) It drags the audience into the story. Adding Norman’s character to the story is Tim’s way of distancing himself from his guilt; it is Tim’s story to tell, not Norman’s. He felt guilty for the death of Kiowa.

8. It helped to explain a feeling that Tim was trying to convey. It enabled Tim to give the readers the emotions that he was going through. Adding intimate details touches the reader more strongly than a general overview.

Question: What was the point of the short story, “Style”?

9. The point of the short story was to show that the soldiers actually did have respect for the civilians in Vietnam. The soldiers didn’t actually care about killing the people who lived in Vietnam, they only killed in situations that it was “kill or be killed”.

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Peter

Post  pbr on September 26th 2008, 12:50 pm

"The Man I Killed," "Ambush.," & "Good Form"

(4) O'Brien is haunted by the war and wants to relive what happened. He may want to atone for the things that he did, so he writes war stories to make up for what happened there. O'Brien writes these stories because that is all that he lives and he can get so much inspiration for stories from his experiences that happened there.

(5) In the book, there is not much actual truth. Even though this is the case, O'Brien says that things are not false. With his stories he says, he can make things present. With them he can bring the reader to feel the emotions and the feelings that he felt and make them actually experience what it would be like to be there. The stories are able to "attach faces to grief and love and pity and God." He also says that by writing these stories he can make up for the responsibility and grief he has from Vietnam. He says he can "be brave" and make himself "feel again."

(6) Even if O'Brien does not have a daughter, it doesn't change the meaning of the story. I think that the point of the daughter is to make the story visible to the reader. Instead of straight up spilling the story to the audience, he can show it by "telling it" to his daughter. It makes him think and the audience is able to see what he is doing from his point of view.
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Re: The Things They Carried: Page 188

Post  cWest on September 26th 2008, 12:54 pm

The chapter "The Man I Killed" started with very gruesome descriptions of the young, dead, Vietnamese man that Tim O'Brien killed. He began with these gory details to grab the attention of the audience, show the real horrors of war, and not sugar-coat the truth. Soon after killing the man, Tim O'Brien comforts himself in a strange way by recreating what he believed could have been the life of the soldier. O'Brien described how the dead man did not seem to have the essence of a typical Vietcong soldier. He was petite, not muscular, and very feminine looking. O'Brien continues staring at the body creating this elaborate story in his head, so much so that his friend Kiowa notices and tries to console him. Clearly, O'Brien's emotional state was one of shock and disgust with himself for killing this innocent-seeming man.
In "Style", Tim O'Brien creates another disturbing image. The soldiers have just finished burning down a village, and one of the only survivors is a young Vietcong girl. Her whole family has been killed, and she is standing outside of her burned down house dancing. The soldiers go through the village again, and by the time they leave she is still dancing alone, in the middle of her deserted home town. Later on, Azar (on of the soldiers) begins to mock the girl's dance and Henry Dobbins, another soldier, sticks up for the girl, telling him that if he's going to mock her, he'd better "dance right". The eerie image of the young girl dancing after the death of her loved ones is powerful. It says that she is trying to block out all of the pain and misery inflicted on her by the war, simply by doing something that she loved to do. By doing this, she was elevating herself above the horrors of war.

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