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Literature & Language
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Literary Analysis of the Things they Carried by Tim O'Brien (Essay Sample)


Write a well-organized, effectively developed, 3-5-page analysis of one of the short stories we read in this course,
1) "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne 
2) "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman 
3) Stories by Katherine Anne Porter & Eudora Welty 
4) "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" by Sherman Alexie 
5) "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam War veteran
The paper should critically analyze the way the text engages a
significant social issue or how the story addresses issues or problems of social responsibility. You should
anchor the paper’s argument with a clearly articulated thesis statement and use careful analysis of textual
evidence (from the short story) to support your claim (thesis). As you develop your essay, you should think
about how the social issue, or matter of social responsibility you write about, appears in your world. In other
words, is the issue from the story one that might be observed in your own local community, your state, your
nation, or in the larger world? Is the way the issue is portrayed in the story similar to what you observe in your
world? Comment briefly on the similarities and/or differences.
Here is a list of credible sources:
• National newspapers (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Dallas Morning News, Fort
Worth Star Telegram)
• Print magazines (e.g., The Atlantic, Harper’s, New Yorker, Time, Newsweek)
• Online magazines (e.g., Slate, Salon)
• Scholarly articles (e.g., academic articles published in peer-reviewed journals; you can find citations for
these articles by using the MLA International Bibliography database, JSTOR, or Project Muse—all of
which UTA’s library gives you access to online)
• Scholarly books or book chapters (it’s a good bet a book is scholarly if it’s published by an academic
press, such as Duke University Press; if you’re not sure, ask your instructor)
• Historical documents (e.g., old newspaper articles, letters, speeches, journal entries) from academic
databases (see the History subject guide on the library website for ideas)
Secondary Sources to Avoid:
Sparknotes, Cliff Notes, or any other “student helping” sites
Papers for sale sites or free essay sites
Google search results other than those listed above
General Webpages, blogs, or fan sites.
Minimum Requirements:
Your essay should be a Word document that is double spaced, with 1-inch margins, in 12-pt., Times New
Roman font. It must have a cover page with your name, MavID, Course Number, and Section Number,
Instructor Name, and Due Date. Neither your name nor any other identifying information should appear on the
following pages of your essay. Follow the MLA’s recommendations for formatting, citation, page numbers, and
In order to receive a passing grade on the signature assignment, students must do the following:
1. Write an essay that is at least 3 pages long, but no more than 5.
2. Integrate two appropriate sources.
3. Have a thesis.
4. Have a title.
5. Incorporate evidence (i.e., quotations) from the literary text.
6. Have parenthetical in-text citations that refer to entries on a Works Cited page.


Student NameMav ID (1000 number) Course Number and Section NumberDate
Thesis Statement
Perhaps there is no literary piece that retold the Vietnam War like "The Things they Carried" by Tim O'Brien. Considered both a collection of inter-related stories and a novel, it is a unique and challenging piece of literature that emerges from a complex range of literary traditions. The author offers his readers both a writer's biography and a war memoir and goes on to complicate the narrative by coming up with a fictional protagonist who has the same name. Senator John Kerry says in recent article that the Vietnam War true definition and representation of American patriotism and nationalism but more importantly a scrutiny of government social responsibility on Americans CITATION Ker11 \p 1 \l 1033 (Kerry 1). Indeed, the Vietnam War elicited major disagreements in the public and political class. But O'Brien tries to retell a war that elicited numerous debates and issues on nationalism and social responsibility an intriguing and realistic manner. This essay shall analyse O'Brien's war masterpiece in redefining social responsibility.
The Vietnam War turned out to be a historical event characterized by conflict and confusion ranging from disagreements over its significance to the unstructured and inconsistent war of attrition that the troops were forced to fight. This instance of conflict and chaos results in the tone of uncertainty found in The Things They Carried. For instance, the author describes how the main protagonist considers fleeing to Canada in order to avoid military service. At the time, the issue draft-dodging, which involved escaping from the United States so as to avoid the military draft, was a burning issue that was felt strongly by modern organizations CITATION Tim09 \p 23 \l 1033 (O'Brien 23). The author takes the reader through both sides of the draft issue; the feeling of patriotic duty that a young man feels towards his country and the fear of joining the military and dying while in the service. People like Senator Kerry then in Congress opposed the war, claiming that the war was destroying young men's future, splitting families and a misuse of public resources CITATION Ker11 \p 1 \l 1033 (Kerry 1). Most of the narratives in the novel highlight vital historical tensions regarding the Vietnam conflict and offers several perspectives that leave readers with more questions than answers CITATION Jay15 \p 45 \l 1033 (H...
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