The Things They Carried and PTSD

Although Michael M. Faenza’s article “We Must Do More to Help Veterans with PTSD” doesn’t directly analyze The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the same idea of the harmful repercussions of warfare on returning veterans to the states is prevalent in both pieces.

In the beginning of his article Faenza highlights the gravity of this issue, including the data that “more than 30 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq report mental health problems” and that even more hide behind their feelings, battling these horrors silently. (Faenza 201) He continues to explain the risk of adjustment problems that returning soldiers face, especially when “grave physical harm occurred or was threatened”, with symptoms ranging from emotional numbness to depression and strong feelings of guilt. (202) In his novel “The Things They Carried” Tim O’Brien uses the story of his former serviceman Norman Bowker to shed light on the disturbing effects of PTSD felt continually after returning from Vietnam. Bowker experienced a brush with life and lost one of his closest friends in Vietnam and shortly after is expected to realign with society. Bowker drives around his town recounting to himself his experiences from the war, his most haunting when he “pulled hard but Kiowa was gone,and then suddenly he felt himself going, too”. (O’Brien 143) Bowker not only lost his chance at a Silver Star but he lost one of his closest friends and nearly his own life. This event follows him home from Vietnam and haunts him for the rest of his life. With no one to turn to for help or guidance Bowker’s thoughts are confined solely to the war where he relives some of the darkest days of his life. If Bowker was able to talk about the memories haunting him and the emotions he was feeling, he may have been able to find the help he needed and wouldn’t have turned to an unfortunate suicide.

Later on in his article Bowker notes the other obstacles faced b…