Themes of Things They Carried Essay

565 WordsJul 24, 20083 Pages
THEME Bravery is often combined with cowardice. All the soldiers want to appear brave, but only because they are afraid of looking childish in front of their comrades. Even at the age of twenty-one, O’Brien knows the difference between a moral action and a socially acceptable action. He knows that being willing to die so that he and his family will not be embarrassed does not make him brave. He wants to be truly brave and stand up for what he believes in, that the Vietnam War is wrong, but fear and shame hold him back. He does not want to be called a coward, so he goes to war. As an adult reflecting back on his decision, he sees this action as pathetic. Strunk and Jensen decide that life would not be worth living if they were to get seriously injured. But when Strunk loses part of his leg and becomes terrified, he realizes that he would rather continue living the rest of his life. What he first thought was brave instantly becomes ridiculous. Coming close to death makes Strunk realize that his life is much more precious than he thought. Strunk shows “braveness” when he has nothing to worry about, but when he faces death, he becomes very frightened. Norman Bowker cannot forgive himself for possibly causing Kiowa's death, even though he knows he has been brave many times during the war. He constantly wonders about his reasons for showing courage. He acts bravely many times in front of his friends, but he cannot be brave in that Vietnamese mud field. Curt Lemon is also obsessed with appearing brave. He has a perfectly healthy tooth pulled out just to prove he is not afraid of the dentist. No one else cares about his childhood fear, but for Lemon, it is such a big deal that he goes through unnecessary pain to live up to his own distorted idea of bravery. O’Brien tries to avoid thinking of war as individual acts of bravery: rather, it is made up of general acts of

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