Courage and Cowardice in the Novel The Things They Carried and the Film Restrepo

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  981 Words
Date:  2021-06-18


Humans are perceived to be weak beings. Despite the level of courage or confidence that someone may bear or express, they remain victims of a pervasive sense. The fear can be manifest in the lives that an individual lives, the choices they make and motivations behind their actions. One greatest fear of human kind is witnessing imminent death. The novel The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and the film Restrepo directed by Sebastian Junger tackle the characters of courage and cowardice amongst humans, that are overlapping themes in Restrepo and The Things They Carried.

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The Things They Carried Summary

The Things They Carried is a collection of Tim O'Brien short stories, which are interrelated and address the war that American soldiers fought in Vietnam. The book talks of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross of Vietnam who undergoes physical memories of his lost love Martha, a memory he carries to the battlefield where he reconsiders his priorities and burns everything that would remind him of life outside of war (O'Brien 17). On the other hand, Sebastian Junger directed the documentary Restrepo which also delves into the intricacies surrounding the Afghanistan war on the Vanity Fair assignment. The film shows the lives of the troop members from their time of deployment their home return where imminent deaths consequently take place resulting in a loss of lives of combatants.

Theme of Courage vs Cowardice The Things They Carried

One indispensable theme in the two works is the consequential deaths that are evident in both of them. Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried substantially explores both courage and fear. Despite The book talking about the dangerous stuff, soldiers take to war. Listing from pocket knives, mosquito repellent, M-60 machine guns, M-79 grenade launchers, some of which are powerful battle weaponry that simply show might and courage (O'Brien 2. Obrien goes ahead to expose grief, love, longing, that are The Things They Carried themes. He states that the soldiers carry the common secret of cowardice, for instance, he says, these men carried the soldiers greatest soldiers fear, which was being afraid of blushing, the fear of Men who killed and died due to the fear of not doing so (Hughes and James 98).

The author also reveals embarrassment and fear themes in the Things They Carried. When he tries to go to Canada and stops, my analysis only draws me to fear as the main reason for his change of mind. For instance, he claims: I was not in a position to risk such embarrassment, nor could I endure such mockery, such ridicule nor the disgraceWhat a coward I was to go back to war (Smith and Lorie, 16).

O'Brien explores the meaning of courage and cowardice theme of the Things They Carried in most parts of the book. Most of his stories talk about death, which is imminently feared by humans. For instance, he vividly talks about the death of Kiowa who is the most loved platoon member. He goes ahead and explores courage by speaking of Noman Bowker who puts the blame for Kiowa's death on his nerve failure. He comes out as a man who takes full responsibility for his mistakes. He says, He was more than brave, but he had not been as brave as he wanted. Also, the author further explores courage by informing us that Bowker committed suicide on arrival from war. He goes ahead that the part he wrote about the failure of nerves was not the truth but just a made up story. He also denies killing a Vietnamese.

Restrepo Theme Documentary Summary

In the Restrepo documentary, the filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hatheristons spend a period of over one year in front of cameras not fearing the firefights of the Afghanistan troops. The occurrence was a depiction of a high level of courage. They then conducted interviews with the platoon members on their return home to form a complete documentary of life in the Congerean Valley at a time it was perceived the most dangerous place on earth, which was the theme of Restrepo. Moreover, the courage theme is witnessed among the stars in the film who are mostly young members of the platoon. This can be seen in the way they are committed to their job and their young faces. In their interview with one platoon specialist Misha Pemble-Belkin, the specialist confesses how his parents could not allow him to play with toy guns at childhood. However, he depicts a high level of courage in the battlefield when he perfectly handles a large caliber machine gun.

However, the fear of death also comes out clear in this movie documentary. When one of the US soldiers died in combat, one of his colleagues is witnessed wailing amidst wails and sobs, lamenting that he has lost a friend and a fellow colleague in arms. I am crying and see my comrades are also crying. We are gripped by the human trauma we are witnessing.(Sims et al. 91) The augment is that soldiers are normally presumed to be tough and resilient and if they can be overwhelmed with such pain shows a sign of weakness and cowardice.


The two works of literature can to some extent be described as a one subject since they both depict heavy combat and war. Moreover, the characters of both courage and cowardice are clearly brought out in the works.

Works Cited

Hughes Jr, James P. Fear, and Courage in Tim O'Brien's if I Die in a Combat Zone, Going After Cacciato, and the Things They Carried. No. AFIT-98-045. AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH, 1998.

O'Brien, Tim. The things they carried. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Sims, Christopher, Fernando Lujan, and Bing West. "Both Sides of the COIN: Defining War After Afghanistan." Foreign Aff. 91 (2012): 178.

Smith, Lorrie N. "The Things Men Do: The Gendered Subtext in Tim O'Brien's Esquire Stories." Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 36.1 (1994): 16-40.

Cite this page

Courage and Cowardice in the Novel The Things They Carried and the Film Restrepo. (2021, Jun 18). Retrieved from

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