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War Impacts in “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Essay

The Proposal

Specific area

This research work will focus on the effect of war on soldiers, as presented in Tim O’Brien’s book, ”The Things They Carried’. The book talks about what it takes to be a soldier and how the soldiers are affected when they go to war (O’Brien 56). In some of the cases, they may face their death trying to fight for the society. In this research, the focus will be to determine how being a soldier shapes one’s sense of self. According to Heberle (71), it takes a lot to be a successful soldier with the right mental strength when going to war. In order to be able to address this topic properly, the researcher will use a number of questions that would lead to the desired results.

Questions you will want to pursue

It is important to work with some specific questions that would help in the generation of the desired results. These questions would help in the process of gathering relevant data that will be used in collecting the relevant information. In this research, the following questions will be used.

What is the effect of war on the soldier?

How does being a soldier shape one’s sense of self?

Responding to the above two questions would help in finding answers to the research topic. They would help the researcher to determine the effect of war on soldiers as presented in the works of Tim O’Brien and other related literal works.


When addressing this research paper, a number of challenges are expected that may affect the overall quality of the paper. It is important to understand these challenges in order to find a way of addressing then. A common challenge expected is the conflicting information presented by some of the scholars. It is common to find a situation where the information in one source contradicts information in another source. Knowing the truth in such circumstance may be a challenge. Sometimes finding all the relevant sources may also be a challenge. To address these problems, the researcher intends to make an effort to collect as much information from various sources as possible.

The Final Paper


The book ”The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien is a memory of a soldier who participated in the Vietnam War. It is a reflection of what transpires in the life of a soldier as he or she engages the enemies in combat for the sake of his or her country. O’Brien recounts the events that took place while they were in the battlefields. He also recalls the feelings of the soldiers while they are in the field fighting for their nation. The book gives a true reflection of the effect of war on soldiers from the perspective of a soldier who directly participated in a war to defend his country.

How being a soldier shape one’s sense of self

According to O’Brien, being a soldier means a lot because, in its very own nature, one is not allowed to make an independent decision. He went to fight in Vietnam, but he never believed in the war itself. The problem with being a soldier is that one cannot make independent decisions and act upon them. Soldiers are trained to take orders, even when the order goes against one’s wish. In this manner, this profession shapes one’s sense of self from being an independent-minded person to being like a machine that is controlled by the commanders. They learn to take instructions without questioning and to act upon them as expected.


A soldier is expected to be patriotic to his or her country. This means that he or she should be ready to sacrifice self for the sake of the country. They should be willing to engage in wars- even if they do not believe in them- for the sake of protecting the interests of their country (O’Brien 83). O’Brien did not believe in the Vietnam War, but given that the military leaders of his country believed in the war, he had to participate in it. At one moment he even considered escaping to Canada, but his patriotism forced him to stay at war. This is the response that any soldier should not consider escaping from.

Political purpose

As a soldier, one is not allowed to express his or her political affiliation while at work. Soldiers are expected to serve their country irrespective of the political leadership in the country. Sometimes they may be forced to engage in wars that serve a political purpose. However, they must always follow the orders given by the country’s political leader who is their commander-in-chief. Heberle (56) emphasizes on the fact that sometimes a soldier may be forced to go to the battlefield to fight for a political course that they do not believe in. They are not expected to disregard any command as long as they are serving in the military.

Military structure

The military structure has a massive effect on the life of a soldier. According to O’Brien (74), in the military, there are ranks, and in each rank, there are responsibilities one is expected of. This means that at one moment, one would be forced to receive orders and issue them to junior officers or execute them as may be necessary. This makes it very difficult for an individual to lead normal lives. This is so because the military structure has instilled in them the art of working with orders. When they are not receiving orders, then they issue it to people, they consider inferior to them. This affects their normal life, including the way in which they handle their family affairs.


The normal life of a soldier, especially those who have gone to war in volatile regions such as the Vietnam region during the Vietnam War, is characterized by violence. They witness people killing others, or they participate in the killings. They see their friends die at war in violent attacks from the enemy. They would also organize and execute violent retaliatory attacks on the enemy camps that would lead to massive loss of lives of serious injuries. Sometimes the casualties would be the innocent civilians who were not participating in the war.

This would become so common to them that they would consider violence a common thing in society. Although most of the soldiers have successfully managed to restrain from engaging in violent acts when provoked outside the battlefields, some have committed violent offenses against their friends, family members, and other members of the society because of various reasons. According to Dollar (98), the violent acts that sometimes soldiers engage in would haunt them, making them very violent even when the violence is undesirable.

The physical conditions of being a soldier

The physical condition of being a soldier also makes one become unique from other members of society. Only a small fraction of the society members engage in physical exercise on a regular basis. However, soldiers engage in daily physical exercise that makes their physical body fit. What makes them unique from other normal gym-goers is that soldiers are sometimes forced to spend several days or even weeks in the bush, deserts, or other hostile locations all over the world. They have to endure such gruesome conditions, making them physically unique from other members of society. As a soldier, they have no option but to physically adapt to such condition for the sake of one’s country.

One’s relationship with the community one “defends” in war

The constant war that one has to fight for his or her country makes him, or she develop a unique relationship with the community he or she defends in the war. Unlike a civilian who would want to look at other members of the society in terms of their political affiliations, religious beliefs, ethnic origin or any other demographical factors, a soldier is always expected to view all the citizen of his or her country as important people worth protecting. The constant reminder that every member of the society is important and the fact that they spend long hours in the field fighting for their rights creates a close relationship between a soldier and his community. He or she develops a feeling that he has the responsibility to protect everyone.

Works Cited

Dollar, Kent. Soldiers of the Cross: Confederate Soldier-Christians and the Impact of War on Their Faith. Macon, Ga: Mercer Univ. Press, 2005. Print.

Heberle, Mark. A Trauma Artist: Tim O’brien and the Fiction of Vietnam. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2001. Print.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "War Impacts in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien." July 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/war-impacts-in-the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien/.


IvyPanda. "War Impacts in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien." July 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/war-impacts-in-the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "War Impacts in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien." July 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/war-impacts-in-the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'War Impacts in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien'. 8 July.

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