The Things they carried by Tim o’brien

The Things They Carried – Creative Writing Assignment – “The Things YOU Carry”

In order to demonstrate your understanding of Tim O’Brien’s writing style, you are going to write your own piece about the things you carry. You will be imitating O’Brien’s style from the first story in the book, “The Things They Carried.”

Begin by listing the tangible things you carry (You did this in our Pre-Reading Assignment). Try to categorize them. Note O’Brien’s categories:

· “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity.” (2)
· “What they carried was partly a function of rank, partly of field specialty.” (5)
· “They carried catch-as-catch-can.” (7)
· “What they carried varied by mission.” (9)
· “Other missions were more complicated and required special equipment.” (10)
· “The things they carried were determined to some extent by superstition.” (13)

Think about what you “need” to carry…what you carry because of your place in your family…special times when you carry specific things…etc…think of what’s in your backpack, pocketbook, wallet, locker…think of what you don’t carry… Go way beyond what all students and teens carry – backpacks, heavy books, cell phones, burden of homework.

…BUT don’t forget the intangibles you carry. Note O’Brien’s references:

· “Kiowa also carried his grandmother’s distrust of the white man…” (3)
· Jimmy Cross carried “…the responsibility for the lives of his men.” (5)
· “They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.” (7)
· “They all carried ghosts.” (10)
· “They carried the sky.” (15)
· “They carried their own lives.” (15)
· “…they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity.” (19)
· “They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture.” (21)
· “They carried their reputations.” (21)
· “They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing.” (21)

What intangible burdens do you carry?

And remember the digressions into stories that O’Brien includes (Ted Lavender, Martha…). Try to break the “list” up by inserting anecdotes – these could be memories triggered by the things you list. Also, while repetition of phrasing is inevitable (and can be highly effective), note that you want to vary your sentences (refer to the story to see how O’Brien achieves fluency).

Finally, be aware that through all of the listing, O’Brien reveals the personality traits of his characters, what you’re REALLY doing is revealing who you are as a person.

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