In The Things They Carried, just like in real life, storytelling was used to keep the memories of the deceased alive. The author of The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, was using this method himself by writing his war novel. He told of war comrades that had passed away, and his stories made it feel as though they were still living and thriving as they had been. In Love That Dog, Jack also uses his poems as a way to keep his dog Sky’s memory alive, and also as a way to face the pain of losing his dog. Finally, in personal experiences from my life, deceased family members continue to appear at gatherings in the form of stories telling of the good memories.
Tim O’Brien was both the author and the narrator of The Things They Carried. However, the stories told in the novel all have some measure of truth to them. Whether or not they reflected actual memories or fictional events varies from story to story, but they are presented as real experiences and discuss people who died in O’Brien’s life as if they are still living. For example, O’Brien tells stories of Kiowa and Ted Lavender and Curt Lemon as if they are just happening, even though all three men died in Vietnam. In this way, O’Brien keeps the memories of these men alive by presenting his memories, both good and bad, of them as if they are happening in real time.
Jack was the narrator of Love That Dog, and this novel was composed only of poems written by him. His poetry subjects vary, but the main topic seemed to be of his dog, Sky, who was hit by a car and killed. It takes Jack a while to reveal the fate of his dog, as well as the importance of the aforementioned car which caused the death, but it is shocking when it all comes together. Jack’s poetry keeps Sky alive by describing the fun and memorable times they had together, such as the poem describing when he adopted Sky from a shelter, and about how Sky and Jack would play with all the neighborhood kids in the street. By recalling the good times with Sky and dealing with his feelings about Sky’s death, Jack keeps Sky alive in his memory.
In my own life, I have experienced the death of two grandfathers and a great aunt. All these family members were on different sides of the family. My Papa was on my father’s side, my grandfather Julian was on my mother’s birth side, and my great aunt Gail was on my mother’s adopted side. However, all of these deaths affected my family and me greatly, and even though sometimes it is painful, we still tell fond stories about them at family parties and gatherings. By telling these stories, my family and I keep our loved ones alive by recalling the good times and pondering the effect these loved ones had on our lives.
In all three scenarios, the survivors’ lives are affected greatly by both the lives and deaths of the deceased, and telling their stories helps them to analyze the ways their lives were changed by knowing these people. Without remembering them, the deceased would be gone both physically and spiritually. By remembering them, the impact they had on our lives will remain and continue to grow.