Student Author(s)

Mikayla Zobeck, Hope College

Faculty Mentor(s)

Michael Owens, Director of Expository Writing and Interim Director of College Writing

Document Type


Event Date



This article examines the role of the setting in Tim O’Brien’s classic postmodern novel The Things They Carried. Based on close reading and researched analysis of the text itself, we demonstrate that O’Brien so thoroughly personifies the landscape and terrain of Vietnam that it becomes more than just the setting--it becomes a character. Moreover, the terrain becomes the principal antagonist faced by the narrator and his comrades.

Such a literary move allows the author to avoid demonizing the people, whether friend or foe, of Vietnam. After establishing our basic claim about the role of the landscape, we take our analysis further by using historical, biographical, and a bit of geographical research to demonstrate that such a reading of The Things They Carried is entirely consistent with the ideology expressed by both the invented narrator of the book (whom the author also names Tim O’Brien) as well as the author himself.