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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Updated September 21, 2022

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien essay

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Individuality is a characteristic that sets you apart from everyone else. The author Tim O’Brien illustrates this through Rat Kiley, Kiowa and Mary Anne in his novel, The Things They Carried.

Individuality shows the personality of a character, reveals the link between personality and the physical items the soldiers carried, and how individuality is used to create teamwork. When overlooking the personalities of the characters; they all are unique. Rat Kiley is the medic of the operation. He is often known to being humorous, cracking jokes, and telling stories.

Religious and cautious would be words to describe Kiowa. Being a Native American, he is careful around others not like himself. Though there are only two main characters that are female in the novel, Mary Anne is one like no other. She is introduced into the chapter as, “Just a kid, just barely out of high school” (90). Seen having a bubbly and flirtatious personality, she is still naive, young and curious like a “kid”. Tittering between the notions of safety with her boyfriend or joining the thrill of a Green Berets life, she is overcome by her desire of danger, and goes with the Greenies.

Though her boyfriend and his friends try to convince her to stay with them, she does not waver in the end. Many see her shrouded in mystery because they’re bewildered by her actions. If comparing personality to personal belongings, there are few differences to distinguish them. In Rat Kiley’s case, carrying a “canvas satchel filled with morphine, plasma, malaria tablets and surgical tape” (5) as well as comic books would not be a surprise. Being a medic, a first aid kit would be essential.

Since Rat is a funny and an amusing person its no wonder why he owns comic books. Entertainment and kits would not be objects found with Kiowa. In his backpack you would find a hatchet and a copy of The New Testament. Kiowa is a devout Baptist and a bible is natural for him to be carrying.

A hatchet may be a symbol that ties him with his Native American heritage. Opposite life and items from the soldiers, Mary Anne arrives with a suitcase and plastic cosmetic bag. Since she was arranged for a visit, a suitcase with her clothes is assumed. For her to wear and carry makeup reflects her girlish attitude and fresh-faced appearance. Teamwork can not be done alone; it’s distributed to different people who assist in different ways. War can damage the stability of the mind, that’s why Rat plays an essential part by calming the soldiers with jokes and stories and easing their thoughts from the harsh reality of which the war brings.

Kiowa is not one to be overlooked; he questions the rules of life that made others think about their own. For example, when Tim O’Brien killed a man Kiowa said, “‘Tim, it’s a war. The guy wasn’t Heidi-he had a weapon right? It’s a tough thing, for sure, but you got to cut out that staring'” (126). If someone felt bad about something, he would twist the subject matter around and the soldiers would see the situation in a whole new perspective.

Although Mary Anne wasn’t a soldier like the rest of the platoon, she was member of the Green Berets. Since she is young and inexperienced, it gives her a competitive edge that no experienced soldier has or that they can regain. Only in the very end of the novel of The Things They Carried can you realize Tim O’Brien’s voice about the war. The author shows the personality of Rat Kiley, Kiowa and Mary Anne, reveals the link between personality and the physical items the soldiers carried, and how individuality is used to create teamwork.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien essay

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. (2019, Apr 12). Retrieved from