O'Brien draws stuff for his novels from his own experience. He uses fiction and imagination to find meaning in these experiences, and because he was part of the post-World War II generation, the passions and ideas in his novels appeal to American readers with broad differences in political allegiance and social background. Having fought in Vietnam, O'Brien can create fictional soldiers so realistic in attitude, speech, and behavior that readers who are veterans of the war readily identify with them. An activist in the antiwar movement of the 1960's, O'Brien likewise draws faithful imitations of the political rebels of the times. (Philip, 56)
The Things They Carried does not offer the quick fix provided by the Vietnam War Memorial; it offers, instead, the most thorough examination yet to appear of the failure not simply to understand but even to find an appropriate means for depicting what has been insufficiently described as the American experience in Vietnam — that burden of guilt, confusion, and silence carried then, carried still. (Tegmark, 90)
O'Brien has told interviewers that as a youth he was obsessed with American writer Ernest Hemingway, and Hemingway's influence on O'Brien's work is apparent. O'Brien writes in short, crisp sentences that often derive their power from vivid verbs. He relies on extensive dialogue and uses description more to reflect the impressions of his main characters than to construct visually detailed settings. Unlike Hemingway, O'Brien frequently uses fragmentary sentences and questions to imitate the thought processes of characters, especially when they are under stress. Cumulatively, his style establishes an energetic narrative pace. (Philip, 56)
Ernest Hemingway's describes the relationships that develop in Milan among an American and five Italian soldiers who have been wounded and are receiving physical therapy. The story is told from the perspective of the American. Hemingway has been branded a misogynist by current generations of intellectuals because of his caustic portraits of female types, although they do not do more than reflect the thinking of an era and a society. Men are always unruly, aggressive, superior in spirit and body, while women are divided into good and bad, and No dogs and almost holy: that of being dominated and accompany the action of the male fairly. (Benson, 45)
Still significant in the consciousness of the wounded men is the war, which represents both a challenge and a threat. Because of the war, the three young Italians with medals know that they are brave. In addition to representing a test, the war also heightens the soldiers' awareness of death. The story opens with the line: “In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.” The tall, pale Italian who has three medals is described as having “lived a very long time with death.” As a result, their experiences in the war have left them all “detached.” (Wagner, 78)
The nature of courage is one of the central themes of “In another Country.” The American officer is afraid of dying and lies awake wondering ...