Analysis of The Things They Carried

Overall Purpose: To write a research paper about The Things They Carried that engages both the text of
the novel and primary and/or secondary source material that informs our understanding of the novel in a
richer context.
Select one of the following approaches for your research paper:
1) O’Brien seems drive to get as close to the truth as he can in his writing about his war experiences,
whether real or fictionalized. That drive is both a personal endeavor, as well as a reaction against the
deceit that often informed the war for the soldiers and the American public. In what ways did the
government deceive the public about the war? In addition, in what ways does that deception seem to
dovetail with O’Brien’s goal to get as close to the truth as possible?
Consider lies about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that President Johnson used a means to justify troop
Consider the attempts to hide the truth of the My Lai Massacre.
Consider the attempts to hide the truth of Nixon bombing Laos and Cambodia.
Consider the use of Agents Orange and Purple (known carcinogens) and the problems vets
experienced in getting the VA to acknowledge, the cause of their cancers, their children’s birth
defects, let alone the effects on North Vietnam.
Consider the Pentagon Papers and what truths were hidden from the public until Daniel Ehlsberg
leaked it to the press.
2) O’Brien uses metafictional techniques in his novel; however, he was far from the first contemporary
author. Using the article we read on metafiction and O’Brien’s work, address the following issues:
Consider Catherine Calloway’s understanding of metafiction as a starting point.
Consider other approaches/authors who used metafictional techniques.
Consider the evolution of metafiction as a literary technique and/or movement.
Consider other popular metafictional war novels such as Slaughterhouse Five or Catch 22 about
WWII that preceded O’Brien’s as influences on his techniques and structures.
Evidence: You should draw from the texts that you have read with quotation, paraphrase, and analysis.
It is merely an opinion paper on your question at issue for the particular story you choose. A good rule
of thumb is two-three quotes per paragraph, as well as paraphrased evidence.
Personal Evidence: Not applicable here.
Formal Approach: Because this is a formal college-level paper, there should be no use of contractions
nor any use of the first person (I think, I believe, I feel, in my opinion). Avoid explaining to the audience
what it is you’re doing in the paper (In this paper, I will explain…).
MLA Format: The paper should be in MLA format (see the sample research paper in the Bedford on p.
666 for an example. On p. 1 below the information block, you should include Word Count: (with the total
word count for your paper).
Documentation: All sources will be documented in text and with an MLA Works Cited page. Standard
MLA documentation is required. See the MLA link on our website for more specific information.
Inductive or Deductive Structure: Underneath the title of the essay, you must label your essay as either
“Inductive” or “Deductive” in parentheses, and the structure must correctly reflect that choice.
Other things to note:
1) Differentiate between historical fact and the literary present tense: If something happened in the past,
it is okay to refer to such events in the past tense. However, if you’re referring to the writer, then use the
literary present tense. In addition, if the text is fictional, use the literary present tense. For more
information on this, see p. 601 in your Bedford Handbook.
2) The introductory paragraph should use one of the strategies for introduction (QQISA) and then move
to a thesis in the last sentence. Make sure to underline the thesis. You will probably want to start the
paper somewhat broadly, narrowing to a thesis, and then begin to build your argument (to support your
thesis) in body paragraph one. Do not forget to mention the author and title of the story (in quotes)
within the introductory paragraph.
3) Body paragraph should be well developed. That means that a topic sentence should be followed by
seven-ten sentences that fully explore a subtopic of the thesis. What you do not want is a series of very
short paragraphs that really should have been combined into larger, more cohesive units of thought.
Also, make sure to underline your topic sentences. Do not underline in the conclusion.
4) Again, make sure to underline your thesis and topic sentences in this paper. Do not do this by hand;
rather, use the underlining on your word processor. There will be no topic sentence in the introductory
paragraph (only the thesis), and no topic sentence in the conclusion.
5) Conclusion: Make sure not to use a word-for-word restatement of your thesis; rather, try a new way of
stating this central idea. You might want to use one of the strategies we went over in class: AHEQI.
Remember not to introduce new evidence in your conclusion and avoid going on at too great a length.

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