An evaluation of ‘The Things They Carried’ and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’

            ‘The Things They Carried’ is collection of short stories that are put together into a novel. Tim O’Brien, the author, gives an in-depth analysis of the events that took place in the First World War, giving special emphasis to the personal experiences of each soldier during the war and how these experiences affected their characters. He lists the various things that each soldier carried with them to the war; for example, Jimmy Cross was in love with a woman who never loved him back. He also analyses the various emotions, for example, anger and fear that they carried with them during and after the war.

Though ‘The Things They Carried’ is not always described as an anti-war novel, it clearly brings out the experiences of each soldier during this dreaded period. If individuals could put themselves in the shoes of these soldiers, then they would understand the agony the soldiers experienced and take upon themselves the duty to prevent wars. Tim O’Brien analyses the experiences of the soldiers in a repetitive manner to conjure up the emotions of the reader. He tells of how Rat wrote to Kiowa’s sister after Kiowa’s death, explaining to him of how good a friend his brother was, but she did not reply. This made Rat’s grief turn to hard anger. He also narrates how after Kiowa’s death, Norman and he blame themselves for his death. They are unable to deal with the guilt even after the war. He repetitively brings out the ugliness of the war and explains its apparent effects on their lives. Twenty years after the war, he still has these memories and he takes his daughter to Vietnam. He clearly brings out the anguish the solders went throw each day and even after the war, their families did not understand them. Most of the painful memories of dead bodies continued to haunt them many years later. Some of these soldiers resulted in self-destructive ways such as suicide. With this clear narration of the experiences on warfront, I believe ‘The Things They Carried’ is an effective anti-war propaganda.

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque was aimed at bringing out the cruelty of the First World War. He clearly illustrates how the struggled to find food, constant threat of death. He believes that their youthful lives were cut short since, instead of enjoying and taking the world by storm they were running from their lives to an alien one. He narrates his lack of belonging even in his hometown (O’Brien, 2009) He recalls his leave with pain since no one understood what he was going through and the only person who he could share his thoughts with was dying. This incident, seeing his mother so ill and dying yet he had to go back, made him sad an he wished that he had declined to take the leave. He brings out the struggles they faced at the war front and after all, that the only reward they got was a small piece of land that was latter reclaimed by the government. He clearly brings out the lasting effects of war in the memories of the solders and others people .This is sufficient to stop people from going to war.

Tim O’Brien and Erich Maria Remarque repeat the scenes on physical and emotional torture. Tim O’Brien constantly narrates on the physical loads they carried. For example, Jimmy always carried a pebble give to him by Martha, his love and also the compasses and maps for his colleagues. They also bring out the emotional torture; the anger, memories and fear. The soldiers lived with the memories of war. Erich says that he was sad to leave his mother at her deathbed and regretted going for leave some of them could not handle them hence committed suicide. These incidences bring out the brutality of war (Remarque, 1950).

Fear of shame as motivation is also one of the common themes. They repetitively show how the soldiers concealed their fear in the face of danger .O’Brien says that they did not want their enemies to see their fear. They both say how much the solders concealed their fear from each other. They wanted to fit in since solders were seen to be strong, fearless men. Since they did not want to be seen as cowards the killed, and went out fearlessly even in risky situations. It also brought out nationalism. They were representing their nations and wanted them to win.

They also emphasize on the truth when telling the stories. Since they were soldiers at this time, they give firsthand information without editing the experiences. This is not only aimed at informing but also invoking the readers emotions to motivate them to cub such vices in future. The narrate on their experiences with depth

Tim uses a reflective tone. Tim constantly repeats some of the scenes to invoke the readers’ emotions and share his feelings (O’Brien, 2009). Erich tone was emotionless. He describes death of a person plainly just, as he would for an animal. This showed how hardened they had become and they had lost touch with their feelings. The diction is perfectly used to fit the context. They use words that bring out the fear, alienation, anger, frustration and every mood experienced at the war front. The words used clearly explain the settings they are in and the reader can clearly relate to the place. They create an image in a readers mind. The words also reveal the physical and psychological torture experienced. The fact that this was a warfront, and they were involved, makes the reader take the experiences seriously. In their writings, they have repeatedly written on the fears, oppression, bad memories of war. With nothing good to report war, the readers get the moral message that wars are bad and they should therefore avoid them. The works have effective anti-war message and other themes do not dominate the message of the works. This explains why these two books are referred to as anti-war propaganda.



Work cited

Remarque, Erich. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. Delran: NJ, 1950

O’Brien, Tim. ‘The Things They Carried’. Boston: MA, 2009

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