Skip to main content

The Things They Carried: Home

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried is a collection of stories that Tim O'Brien published in the 1970s and 1980s after his return from the Vietnam War. The stories are interrelated and structured such that the collection reads more like a novel than as a set of discrete stories.

As a collection, the stories make up the reflections of "Tim O'Brien," a character sharing traits and personal history with the real O'Brien, but one who is careful to highlight the mediated, fictive nature of his writings. A key premise of the novel is that stories are true whether or not they relate "actual" events. In one story, we learn of a character's guilt over allowing a fellow soldier to die, and then we learn that it was actually the narrator who let the character die. After telling us about a man he killed with a grenade, the narrator later tells us he watched the man die but did not kill him, then follows that with, "Even that story is made up." Each of the stories recounts incidents from the war that try to find perspective in the events and to humanize the men who were involved with the purpose of rescuing them from their deaths. In many ways, the point of The Things They Carried is to examine the nature of storytelling itself and to discover how we use narrative to construct our understanding of events that would otherwise seem random, pointless, and cruel.

Themes that inform the novel include cruelty, death, gender, grief, guilt, heroism, innocence and experience, spirituality, and violence.


1 Little, Michael R. "The Things They Carried." Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature, 3-Volume Set. Facts On File, 2010. Accessed December 9, 2017. they carried.

Warrior One Search

Quick 1-step search of many of the WHRHS Library databases!

Literature Databases

War & Genocide Databases

Social Studies Databases

Databases A-Z

A-Z Database List

Full list of Databases the library subscribes to, including trial access.
Go to A-Z List

Media Specialist

Scott Keele's picture
Scott Keele
108 Stirling Road
Warren, NJ 07059
908-647-4800 x 2975

Find a Book!

Search Titles Search Authors Search Subjects Search Keywords Search Series
Or go to Destiny...

Books and eBooks


"They Things They Carried", 20 years later



The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (summary and review)


Annotated Bibliographies

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY An annotated bibliography is a listing of the resources consulted for research purposes. An annotated bibliography is listed in alphabetical order according to author and contains the following information in this order.

i. Citation in MLA format

ii. Summary of the sources’ content (See sample below.)

Castelvecchi, D. (2008, August 30). “Carbon Tubes leave nano behind.” Science News, 174(5), Retrieved from

 This source, which describes a new, flexible lightweight material 30 times stronger than Keviar and possibly useful for better bulletproof vests, provides evidence of yet another upcoming technology that might be useful to law enforcement. This article focuses on the ways in which lighter, stronger, bulletproof materials might change SWAT tactics, for instance, enabling them to carry more gear, protect police vehicles, or to blend into crowds better.