Writing as Catharsis in "The Things They Carried"

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“The Things They Carried” is a text that focuses on writing as a form of coping with trauma and discusses how exaggeration is sometimes needed in a story to convey the message that the story-teller is trying to get at. An example of this is when the author talks about how for Rat Kiley “facts were formed by sensation” (89). Kiley is described as telling his stories as though they are intended to be tragedies, even the funny parts. This is because there is an underlying sadness to every war story, even though humor can be found in them. Part of this may be attributed to the ‘education’ each soldier received when they first went off to the war. This so called ‘education’ was described by Kiley as: “ Young, that’s all I said. Like you and me. I mean, when we first got here – all of us – we were real young and innocent, full of romantic bullshit, but we learned pretty damn quick. And so did Mary Ann.” (97). The text also talks about the importance of flow in storytelling by describing how Kiley tended to interrupt the flow of his stories with commentary and questions. Mitchell Sanders told Kiley that “that just breaks the spell. It destroys the magic. What you have to do is trust your own story. Get the hell out of the way and let it tell itself.” (106). This comment reflects on the idea that the stories force their own way out, and in a way tell themselves. This is because after being repressed for so long, they sort of just blurt out. I found ‘The Man I killed’ to be a particularly interesting story out of this book. I feel like it really goes to the heart of why the author feels he must write and get all these feelings out. He describes the body in vivid imagery, and he returns to it later on, in “Ambush”. He says: “I want to tell her that as a little girl she was absolutely right. This is why I keep writing war stories” (131) and then he goes on to talk about

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