The Things They Carried Quotes

Quotes, also known as quotations are dialogue lines or sentences that reveal characters’ nature or intention, conditions, situations, and circumstances given in a text. Tim O’ Brien has written The Things They Carried with special reference to the soldiers killed in Vietnam. Therefore, the quotes in The Things They Carried also carry the same message of peace and memory.

Quotes in The Things They Carried

Quote #1

“A dark theater, he remembered, and the movie was Bonnie and Clyde, and Martha wore a tweed skirt, and during the final scene, when he touched her knee, she turned and looked at him in a sad, sober way that made him pull his hand back…”

The Things They Carried

These lines are taken from the first story with the same title “The Things They Carried.” Lt. Jimmy Cross remembers his beloved Martha. He recalls the time they spent together and watched a movie when Martha was wearing a tweed skirt. He tried to get close, but she hesitated. He dared not touch her again. These lines reveal Jimmy’s unrequited love for Martha.

Quote #2

“I tried to will myself overboard.
I gripped the edge of the boat and leaned forward and thought, Now.”
I did try. It just wasn’t possible.”
On the Rainy River

These lines are from the second story. The main character states that he has decided to escape from the responsibility of going to the war and go to Canada. The speaker is trying to board a boat but cannot as the weight of the responsibility weighs heavily on his conscience. Therefore, he thinks that it would not be possible for him to escape.

Quote #3

 “Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”


These lines are borrowed from the third story, Spin. Here the author O’Brien is trying to show how stories make up the past and the future of the characters. He is stating the importance of telling and writing stories as they stay when memory fades. They also help the characters to escape the bitter realities of war. Therefore, he has discussed the importance of stories which remains forever and are passed down to future generations.

Quote #4

 “He lay face-up in the center of the trail, a slim, dead, almost dainty young man. He had bony legs, a narrow waist, long shapely fingers. His chest was sunken and poorly muscled — a scholar, maybe. His wrists were the wrists of a child.”

The Man I Killed

These lines are from The Man I Killed segment. It describes the man that Tim O’ Brien has killed with his hand grenade. The writer is stuck with the memory and trauma of killing a soldier. His imagination about his body, his ability, and his body parts show that O’ Brien thinks him a human being first and Vietnamese second. These lines show the conflict soldiers go through on the battlefield when they are forced to kill another human being.

Quote #5

 “She had crossed to the other side. She was part of the land. She was wearing her culottes, her pink sweater, and a necklace of human tongues. She was dangerous. She was ready for the kill.” Sweetheart of the Tra Bong

These lines are from ‘Sweetheart of the Tra Bong’. Mary Anne Bell is a medic and girlfriend of a soldier, Mark, who accompanies him to Vietnam. She became part of their company and stayed with them, but still, as a civilian. However, with time, she too became fearless and a killing machine like the soldiers with whom she lived. These lines are significant as they show how a civilian will have to display the courage of a soldier in the time of need and fight with them.

 Quote #6

“A while later, when we moved out of the hamlet, she was still dancing. ‘Probably some weird ritual,’ Azar said, but Henry Dobbins looked back and said no, the girl just liked to dance.”


These lines are taken from ‘Style’. Azar, a soldier, speaks these lines to tell about the dancing girl. Azar asks another soldier, Henry Dobbins if the girl is dancing some ritual dance. However, Henry who probably understood people more replies that she just likes dance. These lines signify that people always carry misconception about other culture or people if they look from a certain distance.

Quote #7

 ‘Easy does it,’ he told me, ‘just a side wound, no problem unless you’re pregnant.’ He ripped off the compress, applied a fresh one, and told me to clamp it in place with my fingers. ‘Press hard,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry about the baby.’

The Ghost Soldiers

These lines are from The Ghost Soldiers. The narrator, Tim O’ Brien is a shot. His friend Kiley, another soldier, is bandaging him. Another soldier comments that he should press hard to bandage him which shows the insensitivity of the soldiers when they are wounded on the battlefield. Calling Tim ‘a pregnant lady’ as if he has a baby in his belly shows that they are using dark humor to make the wounded forget the pain.

Quote #8

 “Before the chopper came, there was time for goodbyes. Lieutenant Cross went over and said he’d vouch that it was an accident. Henry Dobbins and Azar gave him a stack of comic books for hospital reading. Everybody stood in a little circle, feeling bad about it, trying to cheer him up with bullshit about the great nightlife in Japan.

Night Life

These lines are taken from the story ‘Night Life’. When Rat Kiley shoots himself, he is sent by a chopper to a hospital located in Japan. Other soldiers like Henry and Azar give books to the soldier was being sent away. Other soldiers tease and lie to the wounded soldier as if they are feeling bad for not getting a chance to see Japan. They try to cheer him and tell that he will be enjoying life in Japan.

Quote #9

 “But in a story, I can steal her soul. I can revive, at least briefly, that which is absolute and unchanging. It’s not the surface that matters, it’s the identity that lives inside. In a story, miracles can happen. Linda can smile and sit up. She can reach out, touch my wrist, and say ‘Timmy, stop crying.’

The Lives of the Dead

These lines are from ‘The Lives of the Dead’. The narrator, Tim O’ Brien is telling about his former beloved, Linda who has been dead a long time ago. However, he can still recall her and shows his love for her. In fact, recalling the dead gives O’ Brien some solace from the ravages of war that he has gone through.

Quote #10

“We kept the dead alive with stories. When Ted Lavender was shot in the head, the men talked about how they’d never seen him so mellow, how tranquil he was, how it wasn’t the bullet but the tranquilizers that blew his mind. He wasn’t dead, just laid-back. There were Christians among us, like Kiowa, who believed in the New Testament stories of life after death.”

The Lives of the Dead

These lines are also from the last story “The Lives of the Dead.” These lines show the importance of stories and the reason for writing this collection of stories. Tim O’ Brien states that stories have always helped people to keep their dead ones in their memories. The story of Ted Lavender’s death, a soldier, and the belief of Kiowa in Biblical stories point to the same explanation that stories help the soldiers to learn lessons and recall the people who are not with them.