Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.
Who Were They
Alpha Company is composed of men whose stories we learn about in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. In the first story, which shares its title with the book itself, soldiers deployed in Vietnam must carry everything with them; this includes their supplies, but also more abstract things, such as personal reminders of their loved ones and the world they left behind. As readers, we bear witness to the tragic loss of a team member, to their struggles to cope with the loss, stress, and confusion engendered by the war. Through these stories, it is possible for us to observe what life was like for these soldiers when they returned home.
Vocabulary Aids Understanding
In order to fully understand what we read, it is important to make sure that we take the time to learn the meanings of words that are unfamiliar. Taking the steps necessary to add new vocabulary words to your repertoire will heighten your ability to read, to process information, and to think critically. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting words in The Things They Carried.
- Laxity - The tendency to be easygoing or less strict than is effective.
'He would not tolerate laxity. He would show strength, distancing himself.'
- Volition - The capacity for making a conscious decision.
'Just humping, one step and then the next and then another, but no volition, no will, because it was automatic . . .'
- Ambiguities - Things that are vague or uncertain.
'And for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty. . .'
- Amortizing - Getting rid of a debt by making periodic and regular payments.
'It justified the past while amortizing the future.'
- Eviscerated - Having removed the intestines.
''The hogs were decapitated . . . eviscerated and strong by the hind hocks on a high conveyor belt.'
- Acquiescence - Acceptance without either enthusiasm or protest.
'Telling them how much I detested their blind, thoughtless, automatic acquiescence to it all, . . .'
- Reticence - The state of being inclined to remain quiet or withhold something from the conversation.
'His reticence was typical of that part of Minnesota, where privacy still held value.'
- Ruthless - Without mercy.
'Each morning we'd form up in a long column, the old poppa-san out front, and for the whole day we'd troop along after him, tracing his footsteps, playing an exact and ruthless game of follow the leader.'
- Skittish - Excitable or unpredictable, on edge.
'At night he had trouble sleeping--a skittish feeling--always on guard, hearing strange noises in the dark, imagining a grenade rolling into his foxhole or the tickle of a knife against his ear.'
- Rectitude -Virtue, decency.
'If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.'
- Surreal - Bizarre, unreal.
'And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.'
- Anarchy - A state of disorder originating in an absence of recognized authority.
'Order blends into chaos, love into hate, ugliness into beauty, law into anarchy, civility into savagery.'
- Mundane - Lacking in interest or dull.
'Vietnam was full of strange stories, some improbable, some well beyond that, but the stories that will last forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivia and bedlam, the mad and the mundane.'
- Rout - Disorganized retreat of soldiers who have already lost the battle.
'...from his earliest boyhood the man I killed would have listened to stories about the heroic Trung sisters and Tran Hung Dao's famous rout of the Mongols and Le Loi's final victory against the Chinese at Tot Dong.'
- Cadre - Small group with specialized training.
'The means for this were arranged, perhaps, through the village liberation cadres, and in 1964 the young man began attending classes at the university in Saigon, where he avoided politics and paid attention to the problems of calculus.'
- Feigned - Faked, insincere.
'The letter covered seventeen handwritten pages, its tone jumping from self-pity to anger to irony to guilt to a kind of feigned indifference.'
- Happenstance - Event that happens coincidentally or by chance.
'But they also felt a kind of giddiness, a secret joy, because they were alive, and because even the rain was preferable to being sucked under a shit field, and because it was all a matter of luck and happenstance.'
- Forfeit - To surrender or give up as a penalty for misdeeds.
'You forfeit membership in the family, the blood fraternity, and no matter how hard you try, you can't pretend to be part of it.'
- Skeptic - A person tending to regard conventional opinions with doubt or suspicion.
'But at night you turned into a believer: no skeptics in foxholes.'
- Taut - Pulled or drawn tightly.
'There was a light feeling in my head, fluttery and taut at the same time.'
- Peril - Grave and imminent danger.
'Slowly, we dragged the ammo cans closer to Bobby Jorgenson's bunker, and this, plus the moon, gave a sense of approaching peril, the slow belly-down crawl of evil.'
- Lucid - Clear and easy to understand, understandable.
'I was lucid--things were clear--but my tongue wouldn't fit around the words.'
Learning new vocabulary is a fun and interesting way to exercise your brain and build your critical thinking skills.
In The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, we are introduced to a lot of new vocabulary that enhances our understanding of what the men in Alpha Company went through in Vietnam, and what life was like for them when they returned home. In order to fully understand the impact of these stories, it is imperative that you study the vocabulary.
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