Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

On Oct. 22, the Big Read had a book discussion about Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Centering on themes of authenticity, truth, and war represented as art, the discussion group took place for about an hour.
The discussion, which took place in FHG Library, was one of many events taking place around the community this semester for the Big Read. The Big Read has involved many events: including an oral history project, a Read-a-thon, a panel about West Chester during the Vietnam era, and many book discussions. All of the Big Read events are centered on the themes found in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
While this particular book discussion was titled: “The Art of War, Experienced as Art,” participants were able to discuss any aspects of the book that they found interesting.
Although The Things They Carried is a work of fiction, Tim O’Brien writes about many of the events as though he personally was there. This semi-autobiographical way of telling the story blurs genre lines.
A big topic of discussion regarded the difference between “true” war stories and “authentic” war stories. Just because the event didn’t personally happen to Tim O’Brien does not mean the events he describes do not accurately capture the emotions of war. Participants also noted that veterans seem to appreciate The Things They Carried, regardless of its fictionalized aspects.
The discussion group also related The Things They Carried to other wars. PSTD and survivor’s guilt were big discussion points, as was the idea of history repeating itself.
The Things They Carried, as the entire Big Read drives home, is not just a story of the Vietnam War. It is, as the discussion group pointed out, a story about all wars and universal human emotions.
On Nov. 11, Tim O’Brien will have a Keynote Address in Emile Asplundh Hall. The event is free of charge, and everyone is welcome to attend.
For more information about the Big Read and a list of other upcoming events, visit
Theresa Kelly is a second year majoring in English literature secondary education. She can be reached at

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