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Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” Quotes (38 Quotes)


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  • It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end...
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • It wasn't a question of deceit. Just the opposite; he wanted to heat up the truth, to make it burn so hot that you would feel exactly what he felt.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • When your afraid,reallyafraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • It's a hard thing to explain to somebody who hasn't felt it, but the presence of death and danger has a way of bringing you fully awake. It makes things vivid. When you're afraid, really afraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world. You make close friends. You become part of a tribe and you share the same blood- you give it together, you take it together.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")


  • You don't know. When I'm out there at night I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark - I'm on fire almost - I'm burning away into nothing - but it doesn't matter because I know exactly who I am.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • It's not just the embarrassment of tears. That's part of it, no doubt, but what embarrasses me much more, and always will, is the paralysis that took my heart. A moral freeze: I couldn't decide, I couldn't act, I couldn't comport myself with even a pretense of modest human dignity.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • Kiowa who saw it happen said it was like watching a rock fall, or a big sandbag or something-Just Boom-then down. Not like in the movies where the dead guy rolls around and does fancy spins and goes ass over teakettle-not like that. Kiowa said. The bastard just flat fuck fell. Boom down. Nothing else.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • Once someone's dead you can't make them undead.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • The presence of danger has a way of making you feel fully awake.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • There was the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")

  • They did not submit to the obvious alternative, which was simply to close the eyes and fall. So easy, really. Go limp and tumble to the ground and let the muscles unwind and not speak and not budge until your buddies picked you up and lifted you into the chopper that would roar and dip its nose and carry you off to the world. A mere matter of falling, yet no one ever fell. It was not courage, exactly; the object was not valor. Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards.
    (Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried")


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