Conflict is inevitable. War is not.

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Beyond War Book Group – The Things They Carried

Posted on: September 10th, 2013 by BWNWAdmin No Comments


The book group discussed the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien in June. Here are Dorothy Sampson’s comments on the book. You are invited to join in on this discussion.

They carried M-16 assault rifles and magazines of ammunition  and grenade launchers, ponchos and mosquito repellant, marijuana and pocket knives.  But it is the emotional and psychological baggage that continues to weigh on them long after the fighting is over.  In this book, which is neither novel nor short story nor memoir but a combination of all three, Tim O’Brien shows through shards of memory  the unreality of the reality of war for the young men who fought in Vietnam.   Echoing Tolstoy, when Count Nicholas says that men always lied when telling military events and that “in war everything goes on quite otherwise than we can imagine and recount,” O’Brien cautions,  “A true war story is never moral. . .If a story has a moral, do not believe it.  If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted or you feel that some bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.”   A reason wars continue to be fought is simply the very old and terrible lie about what war is. O’Brien’s book disabuses the reader of any notion of the glory of war.  This is the book’s great value.

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