The things they carried : a work of fiction

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New York, N.Y. : Penguin Books, 1991, ©1990.
Physical Desc:
273 pages ; 20 cm.
One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with such care, emotional content, and prosaic precision that it could stand on its own. The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves. With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried   is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war. It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive.
Also in This Series
Call Number
East Hampton Young Adult Paperbacks
On Shelf
Old Saybrook/Acton Adult Fiction
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014014773X (pbk.) :, 9780140147735 (pbk.)
Accelerated Reader:
Level 5.8, 10 Points
Lexile measure:


A series of connected stories based on the author's experiences in Vietnam.
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APA Citation (style guide)

O'Brien, T. (19911990). The things they carried: a work of fiction. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

O'Brien, Tim, 1946-. 19911990. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

O'Brien, Tim, 1946-, The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 19911990.

MLA Citation (style guide)

O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 19911990. Print.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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MARC Record

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5050 |a Things they carried -- Love -- Spin -- On the Rainy River -- Enemies -- Friends -- How to tell a true war story -- Dentist -- Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong -- Stockings -- Church -- Man I killed -- Ambush -- Style -- Speaking of courage -- Notes -- In the field -- Good form -- Field trip -- Ghost soldiers -- Night life -- Lives of the dead.
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