Imagery and Symbolism in "The Things They Carried" Analytical Essay by Nicky

An analysis of the imagery and symbolism in Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried".
# 150689 | 1,108 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2012 | US
Published on Mar 30, 2012 in Literature (American)

$29.95 $9.95 Buy and instantly download this paper now

Chosen as a "Paper of the Week":

Paper of the week

February 9, 1965 marks the date that the United States first sent military forces to Vietnam.  The Vietnam War itself became an intensely costly war both in terms of human life and finances.  It also became one of the most unpopular wars in US history and has since been viewed as a benchmark for how not to conduct foreign conflicts.  Many articles, commentaries, and books have been written about this war and one book, in particular, entitled, “The Things They Carried”, by Tim O’Brien, depicts the emotional and psychological wounds of the war especially well.   For this reason, paper #150689, ‘“Imagery and Symbolism in “The Things They Carried”’, was selected as this week’s paper of the week on AcaDemon.  As the title of the paper suggests, paper #150689 provides in-depth analysis of O’Brien’s elegant and effective use of imagery and symbolism. After a detailed look at O’Brien’s masterful use of these techniques, the paper concludes that "The Things They Carried" is a “compelling novel because of what is says and how it says it. O’Brien successfully weaves imagery and symbolism together to create a painful tapestry of the pain of war.”


The paper demonstrates how O'Brien successfully weaves imagery and symbolism together to create a painful tapestry of the pain of war. The paper highlights how O'Brien connects with the reader on a deep level by emphasizing both the physical and emotional weights carried by the soldiers in Vietnam.

From the Paper:

"Imagery, when it is successful, allows the reader to envision something he might not have otherwise known. Carl Bain suggests that imagery "defines an abstraction or any emotional or psychological state with a sensory comparison" (Bain 300). The first few images we read in The Things They Carried demonstrate this point precisely. Readers do not have to actually see a solider with a pack on his back to know what these men are carrying. O'Brien paints the picture for them. For example, we read that the men carry things that are necessary for survival, including "P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, fog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tables, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. (O'Brien 2). These items are ordinary things but when they are attached to these men in the sticky woods of Vietnam, they become extraordinary. O'Brien wants us to visualize these men and the most successful way for that to occur is through a sense of familiarity. O'Brien illustrates how imagery does not need to be spectacular in order to be effective."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bain, Carl, et el. The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. 1991.
  • O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway Books. 1990.
  • Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. "An Overview of 'The Things They Carried.'" Short Stories for Students. 1999. GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed October 9, 2009. <>

Cite this Analytical Essay:

APA Format

Imagery and Symbolism in "The Things They Carried" (2012, March 30) Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

MLA Format

"Imagery and Symbolism in "The Things They Carried"" 30 March 2012. Web. 19 August. 2017. <>