The novel The Things They Carried is separated into twenty-two chapters, each capable of standing alone. For this lesson focus is directed on the chapter titled
. Written in the first person, O'Brien expresses conflicted feelings in telling his daughter the truth or preserving her innocence after she declares, "You keep writing these war stories," she said, "so I guess you must've killed somebody." (O'Brien, 131). At this point, stop the class to do a brainstorming activity on difficult questions to ask parents: Does the tooth fairy exist? Did you do your homework? When was the first time you didn't obey your parents? Are you a racist? Did you ever commit a crime? Did you ever do drugs? Do I look good in this outfit? How was work? Do you love mommy/daddy? Do I have anything to worry about, like bugs in my bed? Is it safe to live here? Do we have enough money for food? These questions are only suggestions and it is strongly recommend to use examples sparingly and only to facilitate the students creativity. Have the students pick one of the brainstorming questions, and script a realistic discussion between a nine year old and a parent, or you can extend this further and have them write as if they are answering their nine year old child.
Through this activity the students have addressed O'Brien's dilemma at the onset of
. He then proceeds to answer his daughter's question in three different ways. First, he tells his daughter "of course not." Next, he writes in two sentences, "He was a short, slender young man of about twenty. I was afraid of him -- afraid of something -- and as he passed me on the trail I threw a grenade that exploded at his feet and killed him." (O'Brien, 131). The third retelling is three pages in length.