• Name:_____________________________________________________


    Directions: Answer the following questions to the best of your ability as we read The Things They Carried. This packet will occasionally be collected and checked, so make sure you are keeping up with it. You do not have to write in full sentences, but make sure you have enough written to fu answer the questions.


    The Things They Carried

    1. In the list of all the things the soldiers carried, what item was most surprising? Which item did you find most representative of the war? Which items stay with you?

    1. In what sense does Jimmy love Martha? Why does he construct this elaborate, mostly fictional, relationship with her: What does he get out of it?

    1. Why do the soldiers tell jokes about the war, about killing?

    1. How is the idea of weight used and developed in the story? How do you, as a reader, feel reading those lists of weight? What effect does it have on you?

    1. How has Jimmy changed by the end of the story? How will he be a different person from this point on? What has he learned about himself? Or to put it another way, what has he lost and what has he gained?


    1. What has Lt. Cross never forgotten? Why? Should he have forgotten?

    1. How did Lt. Cross feel about Martha? Why did he continue this feeling when it appears it will never be returned?

    1. What didn’t Lt. Cross want O’Brien to talk about in his story? Why did O’Brien talk about it? What made him go against what he said to this man, this friend, this fellow soldier, this “sharer of his past?”


    1. Why was Bowker and Dobbins game of checkers so wonderful to watch?

    1. What did O’Brien mean when he wrote, “The bad stuff never stops happening: it lives in its own dimension, replaying itself over and over.” In your opinion, what causes it to replay? Have you had anything like this happen to you in your life?

    1. What did O’Brien mean when he wrote, “As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come at you. That’s the real obsession. All those stories.” Is this the way all writers write?

    1. O’Brien reveals the average age to be nineteen or twenty. He then tells of Azar killing the puppy and commenting, “‘What’s everybody so upset about?’ Azar said. ‘I mean, Christ, I’m just a boy.’” What is he trying to share with us here?

    On the Rainy River

    1. What did O’Brien mean when he wrote,”The only certainty that summer was moral confusion. It was my view then, and still is, that you don’t make war without knowing why. Knowledge, of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can’t fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can’t make them undead.”

    1. If O’Brien was against the war, then why didn’t he simply go to Canada as he suggested?

    1. How did Elroy Berdahl become the hero of O’Brien’s life? What did Berdahl do the day before O’Brien left which was so extraordinary?


    1. What happened to Jensen? Why? How did Strunk react to this?


    1. What’s the Jensen/Strunk arrangement and how does it go sour? How does Strunk’s death affect Jensen and why?

    How to Tell a True War Story

    1. How did O’Brien describe a true war story? What is it and what isn’t it?

    1. What did O’Brien mean when he said, “You can tell a true war story by the way it never seems to end. Not then, not ever.”

    1. Explain these two quotes about war:

    Quote 1: “In a true war story, if there’s a moral at all, it’s like the thread that makes the cloth. You can’t tease it out. You can't extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there's nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe ‘Oh.’”

    Quote 2: “War is hell. . . . because it generalizes, I can’t believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside.”

    “It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.”

    1. How does O’Brien do in telling you his war story. Does it meet his definition? Does it need explaining? Does your stomach believe?

    1. O’Brien said the closer you come to death, the closer you come to life. What did he mean?

    1. Often in a true war story there is no point. What did O’Brien mean by that?

    1. What is meant when he said, “It wasn’t a war story. It was a love story.”

    The Dentist

    1. What’s the purpose of this story?

    Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong

    1. Before Rat joined Alpha Company, where was he?

    1. Who were the six Greenies?

    1. Explain the development of Mary Anne.

    1. What happened after Fossie became engaged and made plans to send Mary Anne home?

    1. What eventually happened to Mary Anne?

    1. If Mary Anne was symbolic, what would she symbolize?


    1. What’s the purpose of this story?


    1. What’s the purpose of this story?

    The Man I Killed

    1. Describe the man O’Brien killed.

    1. What did Kiowa tell O’Brien to help him overcome what he did?


    1. Why did O’Brien tell his daughter he never killed anyone?

    1. Is this what O’Brien would call a true war story?


    1. Why did Dobbins tell Azar to “dance right?”

    Speaking of Courage

    1. Why was Norman Bowker driving around the lake so often?

    1. According to the story, why didn’t Norman Bowker get the Silver Star?

    1. Why were the villagers yelling at them as they set up camp in the field along the Song Tra Bong?

    1. What happened to Kiowa?




    1. Who suggested writing the chapter Speaking of Courage?

    1. What does Bowker tell O’Brien his life is like now?

    1. Why did Norman Bowker’s letter hit O’Brien so hard?

    1. According to O’Brien, what happens when you tell stories?

    1. What did Bowker say about the first draft of his story which appeared in print?

    1. Who came up with the idea that Norman Bowker lost the Silver Star? Is it true?



    In the Field

    1. How did Jimmy Cross feel about the death of Kiowa?

    1. How was Azar handling the death of Kiowa?

    1. What did Mitchell Sanders feel about the death of Kiowa?

    1. Why did Lt. Cross think about the golf courses?

    1. Who was the young soldier Lt. Cross watches?

    1. Who finds Kiowa?

    1. What does Bowker’s final comment on page 168 mean?

    1. How does this previous statement relate to what is said on page 169?



    Good Form

    1. What the difference between story-truth and happening-truth?

    1. On page 180, how can O’Brien give his daughter two opposite answers and have each be “honest?”



    Field Trip

    1. How does O’Brien’s daughter react to the two of them being there? Is it weird?



    The Ghost Soldiers

    1. What is the greatest difference between the first and second time O’Brien is shot?

    1. How did O’Brien feel about being shot? How did he think he should have felt?

    1. In O’Brien’s conversation with Sanders, what does O’Brien discover about his new relationship with the men whom he had fought together with?

    1. On page 200, what does O’Brien say he discovered about himself? How does this affect the rest of the story?



    Night Life

    1. What happened to Rat Kiley? Why did it happen now?



    The Lives of the Dead

    1. What happened to O’Brien on his fourth day in Vietnam?

    1. Who does this man remind O’Brien of from his past?

    1. What are we to learn about the comparison of these two stories?

    1. How does the author end the novel?