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English Lit 1 & 2

The Things They Carried Seminar Debrief

Allison Finn Pinto

Socratic Seminar: 4 March, 2015

“Rain is destruction. It washes things out. It’s kind of like a barrier…the torrential
downpour was kind of like the war” – Sam
“Water is a main life source. It provides life.” – Reegan

“Water is also purification. Carl Jung says it’s a symbol for the unconscious. The story backs
up on that. There's a top layer and there's an unconscious bottom layer. There's a lot of
unconscious thought.” – Talia
“Bowker went into the water at the end of the chapter and lay down on his back and it talks
about the same thing as cross going into the water. They're two totally different people but
they experience the same outlet.” – Shane
“The lake that Bowker was driving around symbolized himself and his own mentality. It
was calm and tranquil on the top (“now, in the late afternoon, it lay calm and smooth…”
(132)) but on the inside he was going a bit crazy and needed to talk to someone. Kind of
like the stuff that is in the lake, “the docks jutting out into the lake” (131) at weird angles
and stuff like that. His mind is incongruent.” – Reegan
“Mentally, cross has to carry all the weight that he's up to his neck. He has PTSD and he's
really scared.” Ilana
“It doesn't matter if it's real. It doesn't matter if he actually did kill someone. What only
matters is that he saw it and he's talking about a story when someone could have been
killed. It doesn't matter what's true, it only matters what the underlying truth is.” – Lily

“[Tim] saying that he didn't kill someone separates himself into the soldier self and the
home self. His character vs. himself. The person he is at war isn't the same person he was at
home with his daughter. They're story truth. There's a difference between story truth and
factual truth.” – Samara
“He includes everyone and gives everyone a story. They're not real, but they're
representing real people. It's not real stories, but to him it is real.” – Alia

“When O'Brien goes back with his daughter, be doesn't really go back and he doesn't really
have a daughter. It's all symbolic. The trip is really about honoring the dead and to let the
reader know to remember what were the things they carried and all their sacrifices. It's not
positive, it's reality. It's the sad reality. It's about awareness. Most of the problem is that
they blame themselves. Throughout the book, everyone is always playing themselves. Guilt
and blame are huge. If they had blamed God it would have been way easier.” – Alia
“Maybe [Kathleen symbolizes] someone he's protecting from the realities of the war.” –
Joey

English Lit 1 & 2

Allison Finn Pinto

“It's not about Kiowa and Norman, it's about people. They don't represent a certain person,
they're just people. It's a mentality compressed into characters.” – Talia
“The book is from the inside out instead of the outside in. He's not videotaping but it's all
about what he feels is true.” – Ilana
“Just like Martha was the purity outside of the war, these people are the emotions and
expressions inside of it” – Alex

“Maybe he physically didn't kill someone, but he couldn't keep them from dying and they
still weigh on his conscience.” – Abby

“I don't feel like his feeling has been softened. He came back and it affects him. The smell is
still there.” – Noa

“Women [in the book] seem to be less emotional than the men, who are more emotional.” –
Noa
“They want to grow and get past the war but the same time they want to go back to the
safety of their childhood.” – Noa

“Mentally they’re all children and that’s why they cope with killing by joking (like when
Azar is looking for Kiowa…)” – Joey

“They all want to stay in the past because they're always looking at the sentimental items” –
Josh
“None of us have PTSD so we don't know what it's like. The disorder is personal. It's hard.
Maybe the book gives the outsiders a look into O'Brien's brain.” – Shane
“Reading this book is like trying to wade through the post-traumatic stress.” – Alex
“I feel like this book is written more for Tim O'Brien than it is for us.” - Joey