The Things They Carried

Stories from the Vietnam war and in America two decades later.

The Things They Carried  (1990) is a collection of linked short stories by American novelist Tim O’Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War … He was dismayed that people in his home town seemed to have so little understanding of the war and its world. It was in part a response to what he considered ignorance that he wrote The Things They Carried

In The Things They Carried, O’Brien plays with the genre of metafiction; he writes using verisimilitude. His use of real place names and inclusion of himself as the protagonist blurs fiction and non-fiction. As part of this effect, O’Brien dedicates The Things They Carried to the fictional men of the “Alpha Company,” contributing to the novel appearing to be a war memoir. (Wikipedia)

“What Tim O’Brien accomplished in The Things They Carried, his 1990 collection of short stories and essays about his experiences in Vietnam … is to demonstrate that even in the middle of a horrific war experience, that the soldiers and residents of that country were fundamentally and undeniably all human and capable of experiencing the wide scope of human emotion amidst wartime, and further that the very lethal nature of war made the emotions more vivid and alive.” (from a Goodreads review by Lyn)

More reading

The Things They Carried – by Tim O’Brien – on Goodreads

National Endowment for the Arts’ entry about The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried as a composite novel – an academic article analyzing the form of this work – entry on


“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”


This site is a labor of love so many entries could benefit from more quotes, links to interesting background material, author interviews, etc. If you have material for the collection on this page, please get in touch.

Unless otherwise noted, the blurb is adapted from Goodreads.
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