20+ The Things They Carried Quotes To Help Your War Literature Studies

‘The Things They Carried’ quotes are thought-provoking.

'The Things They Carried' written by Tim O'Brien is a book of eleven short stories based on the Vietnam War, and the lives of the soliders who fought in it.

The stories presented in the book are linked to each other. 'The Things They Carried' was written by the author after returning from the Vietnam War himself.

O'Brien wanted to write the book in response to the attitudes he saw in people back home in the USA. Though 'The Things They Carried', O'Brien wanted to spread the message of the effects of the war on those who fought in it. However, the author chose to do this in a surrealist and ambiguous way. The author's main point of writing 'The Things They Carried' was to share the burden of the Vietnam War as a collective past.

These 'The Things They Carried' quotes might help you to understand the story's key parts, and will offer an insight into this devastating conflict.

If you like these 'The Things They Carried' quotes, you can also take a look at these Cold War quotes and 'Apocalypse Now' quotes.

‘The Things They Carried’ Quotes About Literature And Writing

Some ‘The Things They Carried’ quotes are devastating.

Unlike other war books, ‘The Things They Carried’ has a different message. O’Brien deals with the stories told by the soldiers and their impact on others, rather than directly writing about the war. Here are some quotes from the stories.  

1. “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

2. “As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come. That's the real obsession. All those stories.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘Spin’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

3. “Like a killer forest fire, like cancer under a microscope, any battle or artillery barrage has the aesthetic purity of absolute moral indifference – a powerful, implacable beauty – and a true war story will tell the truth about this, though the truth is ugly.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

4. “We kept the dead alive with stories... bringing body and soul back together.”

‒ Tim O'Brien, ‘The Lives Of the Dead’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

5. “This was not Mount Sebastian, it was another world, where there were no pretty poems or midterm exams, a place where men died because of carelessness and gross stupidity. Kiowa was right. Boom - down, and you were dead. Never partly dead.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘The Things They Carried’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

6. “If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

7. “Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘Spin’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

8.  “I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

‒ Tim O'Brien, ‘Good Form’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

Important Quotes From ‘The Things They Carried’

Tim O'Brien ‘The Things They Carried’ quotes are heart-wrenching

In this section, each quote reveals the situations faced by the soldiers. Are you wondering about the importance of Linda in the book? O'Brien chose to include her as a symbol of love, memory, loss, and death.

9. “They carried the land itself—Vietnam, the place, the soil —a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the  humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘The Things They Carried’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

10. “On the morning after Ted Lavender died, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha's letters. Then he burned the two photographs.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘The Things They Carried’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

11. “Though it's odd, you're never more alive than when you're almost dead. You recognize what's valuable. Freshly, as if for the first time, you love what's best in yourself and in the world, all that might be lost.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

12. “As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and  uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

13. “You're at the  bow of a boat on the Rainy River. You're twenty-one years old, you're scared, and there's a hard squeezing pressure in your chest. What would you do?”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘On The Rainy River’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

14. “There was a slim young man I would one day  kill with a hand grenade along a red clay trail outside the village of My Khe.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘On The Rainy River’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

15. “In addition to the three standard weapons—the M-60, M-16, and M-79 —they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate  as a means of killing or staying alive.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘The Things They Carried’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

16. “By and large they carried these things inside, maintaining the masks of composure. They sneered at sick call. They spoke bitterly about guys who  had found release by shooting off their own toes or fingers.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘The Things They Carried’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

17. “Vietnam was full of strange stories, some improbable, some well beyond that, but the stories that will last forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivia and bedlam, the mad and the mundane.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

‘The Things They Carried’ Quotes About Truth And War

The soldiers in the book often face the harsh realities of truth. Here you may find a quote that can make you understand more about the experiences of the soldiers while fighting the war.

18. “If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

19. “It wasn't a question of deceit.  Just the opposite: he wanted to heat up the truth, to make it burn so hot that you would feel exactly what he felt.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

20. “The truths are contradictory. It can be argued, for instance, that war is grotesque. But in truth war is also beauty. For all its horror, you can't  help but gape at the awful majesty of combat.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

21. “For the common soldier, at least, war has the feel—the spiritual texture—of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent... The old rules are no  longer binding, the old truths no longer true.”

‒ Tim O’Brien, ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, ‘The Things They Carried’.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly quotes for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for ‘The Things They Carried’ quotes then why not take a look at these anti-war quotes or 'War And Peace' quotes too?



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