If I Die in a Combat Zone

The novels If I Die in a Combat Zone and The Things They Carried were both written by Tim O’Brien. Tim O’Brien is a Vietnam War veteran and all of the novels he wrote are about his times in the war. He includes the same characters in the stories, but changed their names and descriptions. I do not believe that O’Brien wrote the books for any political reason. Both of the novels have very much in common including the style that it is written, and the stories that are told. There are also differences including the order of the stories, and the endings.

These similarities and differences are important for the novels because it shows the diversity that different soldiers go through in times of war. The style that O’Brien writes in both novels is first person narrative. O’Brien tells the story in his point of view, and tells different stories. In If I Die in a Combat Zone the stories he tells his whole time in Vietnam. He starts with how he got drafted into the war and his training. He considered leaving the country to go live in Europe. At the last minute he almost left, but then decided to stay and go to Vietnam.

He continues the story in chronological order of the times and significant events that had happened throughout his duty. In The Things They Carried, O’Brien told significant stories that were told out of chronological order. The stories told in The Things They Carried were also less biographical and focused more on the men in his platoon. He also jumps back and forth between the war and post war, where he talked to the surviving men from his platoon. He tells the stories of the war, and the stories that the men told him. This is one of the differences between the two books.

The ways the stories are told are different. Even though both books are told in the perspective of O’Brien, when he is telling the stories in The Things They Carried, we are more sympathetic to the other characters because it mostly focuses on them. In both of the stories, O’Brien also uses the same terminology in the books. He uses what I describe as “war” terminology. He uses words and acronyms. For example he said that they were looking for Charlie. I’m not very educated on the Vietnam War so I looked up who Charlie was. Then I realized that Charlie is the Vietnamese army.

There were other terms including the different guns and different mine types. Thankfully, O’Brien explained those terms. O’Brien is consistent with his terms and it makes it easier to read one book after reading the other because of this consistency. The endings of If I Die in a Combat Zone and The Things They Carried are different. In If I Die in a Combat Zone, the end is O’Brien going home from Vietnam. He says that there is no joy in leaving Vietnam. He says that he thought of the friends he gained and the friends he lost. He reminisced what he learned, and realized that he did not learn a lot.

The ending of The Things They Carried is one last story that focused on O’Brien. It was the first time that he had seen a dead body in Vietnam. It then flashes back to his past where his girlfriend had died because of a brain tumor. That was the first time he had seen a dead body. The soldiers say that to keep a person alive is to always tell memories. But O’Brien didn’t do that, he just imagined that his girlfriend was still alive and waiting for him. Although collectively I did not like either of Tim O’Brien’s books, but I can say that they are well written.

The reason I did not like the books was because of the graphics that were described. I understand that learning about the Vietnam War is important, and the horrific aspects are important to learn also, but I do not agree with describing in detail about bodies being blown to pieces. Both books have their similarities in being that they are about the Vietnam War, the style of the book, and the stories and their content. Although the differences were big, including the order of the stories, and the perspective of the stories, the books are close in content. I believe that these books can be read simultaneously with each other.

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