Literal Analysis Of Vietnam War Essay

In the book, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien takes us back to history when the United States of America was fighting with Vietnam. The book has been received well by many people globally, because of the outstanding way the writer was capable of describing the challenges American soldiers faced. The book explains the manner in which American youths in the army were recruited to battle in Vietnam War. The author passably shows the challenges American Soldiers went through when moving from one place to another with the tall grass on Vietnam fields. He does not concentrate much on the war but on the plight of the soldiers. He has employed metaphorical skill, characterizing the baggage that was carried by the soldiers in their battlefield to represent challenges the soldiers faced. Some of the problems they faced included apprehension, diseases, and death that could come at any time (Butler). The act of each soldier carrying his own baggage signifies how each person had to bear his own problems. The discussion will critically analyze the book The Things They Carried, a story about the plight of the American soldiers during the USA and Vietnam War. The literal analysis will be on the author’s use of ‘baggage’ as a metaphor to show the difficulties the soldiers and the American citizen had to go through during and after the war.

Analysis on Items Carried

The items these soldiers carried were only the necessary things they required for their safety and survival in the battlefield. These include can openers, pocketknife, the certificate showing that they had gone through heavy military training; mosquito nets that protected them from diseases such as malaria, which was common in the area, and cigarettes. Other essential items they carried were middle size cans of water, chewing gums, a first aid box, and sewing kits. Surprisingly, these items were roughly fifteen to twenty pounds, which depended on the soldiers’ normal metabolism rate (O’Brien, 10). All these stuff were supposed to be carried to every place the soldiers went. It was a person’s own mistake if he forgot the baggage behind, for he will face the challenges ahead alone. The items the soldiers carried were many, but everything in the bag was necessary and had a purpose. This shows that challenges the soldiers faced could not be reduced or stopped since each problem was ‘necessary’ and they had to face it whether they liked it or not. They had no choice of choosing which problem to face, similar to the items in the bags, which were all essential and missing one item could cause a weighty problem to a soldier. The metaphor for the items carried in the baggage is clearly seen. The soldiers accepted the challenges knowing that it was just for them to face them. Therefore, they had to prepare their mind and emotions for the future challenges that were yet to come, so that they will not be surprised.

Analysis of the Act of Carrying the Bag

When this bag was full of items they required, they carried it to any place they went, and during the wartime, they were placed in a secure place until the war had ended. The act of carrying the baggage, which was habitually heavy, shows the intensity of the challenges and difficulties they had to bear. The weight of the items in the baggage was the main challenge of those bags, and yet they had to carry them to all places. The burdens they went through were exceptionally heavy for a person to bear and they required some counseling and rest. Unfortunately, there was nobody to give them consoling piece of the word and provide time to relax. Most of the time, they were on their feet carrying the heavy baggage and fighting materials as they adverse towards the battlegrounds. The act of carrying this heavy baggage symbolizes the weight of the challenges they faced which at some point was unbearable to carry. Some of the soldiers decided to run away because of the amount and intensity of the war. Therefore, analyzing the weight of the baggage shows how difficult and tough the challenges were to the American soldiers. The things they had to carry were not only the physical items such as boots and guns but also what they carried in their heart. The hearts of the soldiers were greatly traumatized, because of the atmosphere of the war, hence were full of fear since death could come at any time (Bloom, 128-129). Therefore, the soldiers carried many emotional problems in their hearts, and carrying off their physical items made the situation worse. Analyzing the story, The Things They Carried, shows how difficult the situation was for the American military in Vietnam.

Conclusively, the title undoubtedly explains the worries carried by the American citizens who their sons went to a war and the American soldiers who faced several difficult situations. Those things are both physical materials such as weapons and necessary items, and emotional things such as fear, hate, and loneliness. The author uses the word ‘Baggage’ to symbolically shows his intentions and meanings in the story. He shows clearly to his readers how the situation was difficult and challenging in Vietnam.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. The Things They Carried. Boston. InfoBase Publishing, 2005. Print

Butler, Philip. The Weight of the Things:  Physical and Metaphorical Heaviness in Tim O’Brien’s

 The Things They Carried. Available at:


O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Enotes. 2002. Gale Cengage.

Available at: