Summary/Analysis Paper Instructions for The Things They Carried  


US History, Spring 2010


T/Th Class:  Quiz & Discussion 4/20; Paper Due 4/27


This paper should include your responses to The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.  The paper should answer ALL of the Questions for Consideration below, but feel free to comment on other information included in the book.  Direct quotes must have quotation marks and the page number on which they appear should also be included (see instructions on the back of this page). Your papers can also comment on material related to information presented in lecture (by the way, this is one way to show analysis).  Papers must be typed, double-spaced, and well written (correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.).  There is no page requirement, but I will guess that it will probably take at least 1,000 words, or four pages to answer the questions with enough supporting detail.  Make sure to include a title page and follow the other technical details (five points) and staple the pages together. Do not buy a cover for the paper.


The easiest way to organize this paper is to answer each question in its own paragraph or series of paragraphs.  If you would rather write a formal essay that incorporates all of the answers to the Questions for Consideration, that is fine.  The layout/organization of this paper is entirely up to you. 


The quiz over the book will be the first 15 minutes of class on the date of the discussion.  The quiz will be open note and open book.  Students may use any handwritten (not photocopied or typed) notes they have written to help with this quiz, but may not share notes written by others.


Questions for Consideration


1.     Describe the following characters:  Norman Bowker, Jimmy Cross, Bobby Jorgenson, Rat Kiley, Kiowa, and Ted Lavender. Who were they?  What role did they play in the story?

2.     Choose at least three of the book’s short stories covering O’Brien’s time in Vietnam and summarize them.  As you do so, describe the range of conditions faced by soldiers fighting in Vietnam.  Suggested chapters include:  “The Things They Carried,” “Spin,” “The Man I Killed” & “Ambush” (those two go together), “In the Field,” “The Ghost Soldiers,” and “Night Life.”

3.     Summarize at least two stories involving O’Brien or another character which took place primarily either before or after time spent in Vietnam.  Explain how these stories demonstrate the long-term (and often emotional) impact the war had on their lives.  Chapters addressing these themes include “On the Rainy River,” “Speaking of Courage” & “Notes” (those two go together), “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” “Field Trip,” “Night Life,” “The Lives of the Dead.”

4.     How would you evaluate the approach O’Brien took to writing this work?  He was a soldier in the war, yet this is a work of fiction.  Among other short stories, make sure to discuss “How to Tell a True War Story,” “The Man I Killed,” “Ambush,” “Notes,” and “Good Form.”

5.     What are the strengths & weaknesses of this book as a source to learn about life for US soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War?  (Hint:  What was the author’s background?  Was the book believable/credible?  Why/why not?   Was it easy/enjoyable to read?  Why/why not?  Links to additional sources could help to address the book's credibility here).



Citation Format Style


1.     Underline or italicize the titles of books or ships.


2.     Spell out all numbers between zero and nine.


3.     Please do not place your name anywhere on your paper other than the title page.  I try to grade papers anonymously.


4.     Watch verb-tense; usually past tense is best to use while writing, but the paper may be written using either past or present tense.  Just make sure to be consistent.


5.     Try to avoid over-use of quotations, but any quotation longer than four lines should be indented fives paces and single-spaced (rather than double-spaced).   If/when this is done there is no need for quotation marks.


6.     Example of how a direct quote taken from the book you are assigned to read should be cited: 


“The Geneva Accords of 1954 reflected these influences” (41).


7.     Example of how to cite a direct quote taken from a book review or a source other than the assigned book: 


“The prose style of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work Uncle Tom’s Cabin elicits an emotional response from readers” (Stevenson 1981, 52).


8.     If a source other than the book that is assigned is used, a list of references is required.  The reference page should be the last page of the paper and entries should be organized in alphabetical order according to author (not numbered).  Entries should also be single-spaced within the entry and double-spaced between each entry.


a)     Example for a book:


Cronon, William.  Changes in the Land.  New York:  Hill and Wang,



b)    Example for a journal article:


Jackson, Richard.  “Running Down the Up-Escalator.”  Australian

          Geographer 14 (May 1979):  175-184.


c)     Example for internet sources:


DiStefano, Vince. “Guidelines for Better Writing.”^vinced/home/better-writing.html.


d)    Example for Lecture:


Nagle, Michael.   Progressives & WWI.  February 12, 2005.