Thursday, April 19th, 2018...8:17 pmAnnalee

Final Project Idea

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Honestly, I was trying to think of other literary works to choose for this essay and I was having a pretty hard time thinking about what I would pick. Consequently, I thought back to my time in high school and the books that I read and actually enjoyed being forced to read. One of the books that I would put in my top five favorite books is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Most of my classmates actually didn’t like the book, but I just couldn’t put it down. Although I’m not a fan of war, there was something about this book that really stuck with me. Maybe it was the fact that no one has determined whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Or maybe it was the fact that I felt some sort of strange connection to the book as it centers around the Vietnam War and my father went to Vietnam to serve as a war photographer during the war. Maybe I’m searching to understand the brutality he witnessed over there that he refuses to talk about. I remember writing a short story inspired by the things I carried in my backpack, but I never got to fully analyze this work that I seem to keep coming back to. I think the current problem I’m facing is narrowing down exactly what I want to write about. There’s only one real macho character and O’Brien clearly makes the point that there are no heroes in this story. So do I focus on heroism? But it’s more than that! It’s a story of love and loss, fear and shame, and somehow O’Brien argues that it’s a story about peace rather than war, but I find that so hard to believe while I caught up in the war! And there’s a part of me that just wishes O’Brien would come right out and admit if it’s real of fake even though I don’t know what that would really do for me or if it would change my perception of the book. So then do I write about truth and how memories can change? Obviously, I have to narrow this down and actually figure out how I’m even going to connect it to something we learned in class, but at the moment I think I’m too caught up in my obsession with the book.



  • So my brother literally just told me that he wrote a life-changing self-discovery essay about this book for his Junior AP English class. Apparently, it’s a game changer, so I’m excited about it as your choice.

    Maybe your best bet for your critical approach will be looking at what themes you think best resonate with today’s audience, whether it’s the war (looking at wars of today by comparison), or heroism and lack thereof in today’s world (who can be a hero today, can anyone?).

    I don’t know if this is too helpful, but these kinds of questions might lead you to a critical lens that works for you. I know they focus more on history, but maybe starting there will lead you to something different.

  •   Professor Seiler
    April 20th, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Annalee–wow, _TTTC_ is clearly a good choice for you, not because it’s a book you read in high school but because it’s clearly so alive to you as you think about it. First step: start rereading. Next step: what scholarly frame do you want to bring to bear on the book? Do you want to think historically about the book, for example, blending Lillian’s suggestion of thematic reading with your interest in the war? Is there new historicist work to be done w/r/t TOB’s Vietnam War classic, esp. given his critical engagement in the collection with how war stories are typically told?

    Finally, to your point about not liking war: I think if there’s anything clear about TOB’s work, it’s that he doesn’t either.

  • Annalee-
    I love this book; I also read it in high school. I think that you should definitely write about this book, because it still seems to fascinate you. For specifics on what to write about I think you should tie in your dad’s unwillingness to talk about his experiences at war. While your dad not sharing his stories seems to not help get information about his experience, I think his silence actually says a lot. Your dad’s lack to share, or silence implies the seriousness and brutally of war and possibly wanting to forget it. I think adding this component to your writing will make it special because you have a personal connection. An idea would be to be talk about the effect of heroism (great idea) in the book, then possibly talk about what that means in context to your father and his silence. A piece of advice would be to list all of your ideas and evidence on a piece of paper and see which ideas you are the most passionate to write about. I think you are on the verge of a great draft; I can’t wait to see where you go with it.

  • I am very surprised I had not heard of this book before; it seems very interesting and layered in terms of the topics that it addresses, or, as you say, doesn’t address directly. Have you talked about the book with your dad? I wonder what he would have to say about it. Honestly, I think your passion for the book will take you far in terms of the paper. Where there are ideas there is room for analysis. I think as long as you focus on a particular aspect(s) of the book, and have a clear argument without going into an extended tangent (which I tend to do), you will be great!

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