Juxtaposition in The Things They Carried

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 628 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Words: 628|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Physical and Emotional Burdens
  3. Reality and Imagination
  4. Courage and Fear
  5. Conclusion


Juxtaposition is a powerful literary technique that involves placing contrasting elements side by side to create a deeper understanding or meaning. In Tim O'Brien's novel "The Things They Carried," juxtaposition is used to illustrate the complexities of war and its impact on the soldiers. Through the juxtaposition of physical and emotional burdens, reality and imagination, as well as courage and fear, O'Brien paints a vivid and thought-provoking picture of the Vietnam War and the soldiers' experiences.

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Physical and Emotional Burdens

In "The Things They Carried," O'Brien skillfully juxtaposes the physical weight of the soldiers' gear with the emotional weight they carry. The soldiers are burdened not only by the physical necessities of war, such as their weapons and supplies, but also by the emotional baggage that accompanies them. O'Brien describes the weight of the gear in detail, highlighting its heaviness and cumbersome nature. This physical burden serves as a tangible representation of the emotional burdens the soldiers carry, such as guilt, fear, and grief. By juxtaposing the physical and emotional, O'Brien emphasizes the tremendous psychological toll that war takes on the soldiers.

Throughout the novel, O'Brien provides specific examples that highlight the contrast between the physical and emotional burdens. For instance, he describes the soldiers' "humping" through the dense jungles of Vietnam, carrying heavy packs and weapons, while also carrying the weight of the memories and horrors they have witnessed. This stark juxtaposition between the physical and emotional serves to underscore the soldiers' struggle to reconcile the physical demands of war with the emotional toll it exacts.

Reality and Imagination

Another form of juxtaposition in "The Things They Carried" is the juxtaposition of reality and imagination. O'Brien blurs the lines between what is real and what is imagined by weaving in stories and fantasies that the soldiers create to escape the harsh realities of war. These imagined scenarios provide a respite from the brutality of their circumstances, allowing the soldiers to maintain a semblance of control and hope. By juxtaposing the grim reality of war with the soldiers' imagined worlds, O'Brien explores the power of storytelling and memory in shaping their experiences.

The role of storytelling and memory in shaping the soldiers' experiences is further exemplified through the juxtaposition of truth and fiction. O'Brien acknowledges that war stories are often embellished or distorted, but he also emphasizes the importance of these stories in capturing the essence of the soldiers' experiences. By juxtaposing truth and fiction, O'Brien challenges the notion of absolute truth in war narratives and highlights the subjective nature of memory. This juxtaposition encourages readers to question the reliability of the stories they are told and to consider the emotional truths that lie within them.

Courage and Fear

Lastly, O'Brien juxtaposes moments of courage with moments of fear and vulnerability. The soldiers in "The Things They Carried" exhibit acts of bravery in the face of danger, but they also experience intense fear and vulnerability. This juxtaposition challenges traditional notions of heroism in war literature, which often portray soldiers as fearless and invincible. O'Brien demonstrates that courage can coexist with fear and vulnerability, and that true heroism lies in the ability to confront and overcome these emotions.

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In conclusion, Tim O'Brien's use of juxtaposition in "The Things They Carried" allows readers to grasp the complexities of war and its impact on the soldiers. By juxtaposing the physical and emotional burdens, reality and imagination, as well as courage and fear, O'Brien creates a nuanced portrayal of the Vietnam War. The novel serves as a reminder of the lasting impact of war on those who experience it firsthand and challenges readers to consider the complexities of war beyond traditional narratives. Through the use of juxtaposition, O'Brien invites readers to empathize with the soldiers and to reflect on the profound and multifaceted nature of human experiences in times of conflict.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Juxtaposition In The Things They Carried. (2024, March 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Juxtaposition In The Things They Carried.” GradesFixer, 19 Mar. 2024,
Juxtaposition In The Things They Carried. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Juxtaposition In The Things They Carried [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 19 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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