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Literary Devices In The Things They Carried

Literary Devices In The Things They Carried

The world of literature is the one that cannot be measured by any indexes. Literature, especially fiction, can only be understood and, what is more, felt. There is no way that a work of fiction can be right or wrong as there is no black and white in literature. However, it should be acknowledged that there are such novels and stories that stand right in between those two colors because each and every reader on takes on dealing with them can relate to what the author is trying to say. The thing that helps the writers communicate with the readers more efficiently is the literary devices of which Tim O’Brien makes the best of usages in his The Things They Carried. In this article, we will talk about how the author applies literary devices in order to make his text more captivating and interesting.

What Are Those?

There is, probably, a need to start our conversation from actually defining what literary devices are. Those are the elements of figurative language used by writers and poets to communicate the hidden senses encoding them into the words that seem to be simple at first sight. However, as soon as the readers start investing themselves more into the text, they start understanding that it is nothing else but a symbolic brilliance.


The Things They Carried holds a great number of symbolic elements as the author keeps on talking about the thing that the soldiers carry in their hands and their hearts. The essay examples about this collection of short stories often mention the fact that O’Brien has paid special attention to the role of symbolism in his stories. Click for more as all those samples are available online. For example, when speaking about the company’s medic Rat Kiley, O’Brien pays special attention to a pack of M&Ms in his first-aid kit. It becomes easy to understand that the wounds of one’s soul cannot be healed with aspirin. Those are hearty conversation and a bit of sweets that can help a soldier recover in situations like these.


One of the most visible literary devices used by O’Brien is the lexical repetition that is aimed at enhancing the readers’ perception of the emotions that the author is trying to relay. For example, when he talks about sorrow, he would always use this noun two times in a row, e.g., “a crushing sorrow, sorrow like I had never known it before”. It adds both lexical and stylistic emphasis to the sentence, and the reader starts comprehending it in a completely different manner.


When speaking about the Vietnam War and the things that the American soldiers have had to go through in it, an author should use a lot of comparative techniques as there is no other way to let the readers at least partially understand what was happening to them. O’Brien makes sure that the use of similes becomes one of his pivotal weapons in the war for the readers’ attention, as even the narrator never misses a chance to tell the audience that he felt in Vietnam, “as if I had toppled overboard”.


This is surely one of O’Brien’s favorite literary devices because he uses it quite often, especially when it comes to talking about Lt. Jimmy Cross and his love towards Martha right until the death of Ted Lavender. Every essay sample about The Things They Carried will tell you about every sentence that Jimmy says about Martha starts with I saw, I loved, etc. Anaphora is a purposeful repetition of particular lexical units for the sake of attaining a particular contextual and stylistic effect.


As has been already stated, the world of literature cannot be measured. Everything that writers and poets create can only be evaluated. However, the whole point of literature boils down to the fact that there are neither right or wrong. There are only people who might like and dislike a particular work of literature. In The Things They Carried, it can be seen that O’Brien has come a long way of researching the topic that he wanted to write about and there are a lot more literary devices that he applied in his short stories, but the only way to understand them to the core is to read the stories or an extensive essay about them.