“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien is a novel about the Vietnam War and the life of a soldier, both on and off duty. The novel is very well written; it draws the reader in easily. While most have not fought in a war, the emotions and thoughts the novel bring to the surface are relatable (regret, fear, sadness, and just about all other emotions someone could feel). The novel has a very real sense to it; like everything your reading has occurred. However, O’Brien is very clear that this is a work of fiction (he repeats it several times in the book). But, he also admits that he has tried to make this work of fiction seem as real as possible in any way possible: dialogue, character names, and even the dedication of the book. And while that all makes sense – trying to make it seem real, so the reader becomes more invested – it also has some truth to it.
O’Brien wrote this novel 20 years after the war. He said he needed distance and a sort of objectivity to the work so his thoughts about it could reorganize the material. Meaning that the work is on some level real and has truth to it. Personally, I feel like if some relatively important event happened to me, and 5 years later I tried to remember it, I probably couldn’t remember all the details. I would end up filling in some of the gaps with fictitious things (not even on purpose) and then that would become my memory. So, there is truth to the novel, but it is fiction, just like how some memories become so distant they have a sense of fakeness to them. I think that entire aspect of novel is really interesting and makes sense. O’Brien is definitely an amazing writer who easily draws people into his fake/real world of Vietnam.