Tim O’Brien was born on the 1st of October in 1946, in Austin, Minnesota, United States of America. He was a brilliant son of William Timothy O’ Brien, an insurance agent, while his mother, Ave. E Schultz O’Brien was a schoolteacher. Tim spent the first ten years of his life in Austin and later he moved with his family moved to a small town of Worthington where they remained throughout his childhood and adolescent period. His father’s love for reading helped him a lot in his early development as Timothy used to bring home books from the Worthington Library for his children to read. Although his father was well-read and an intellectual person, his alcoholism ruined the family’s peaceful living.
Tim O’ Brien’s educational journey started from his birthplace where he attended an elementary school. He completed his graduation from Macalester College in political science in 1968. Upon graduation, he was drafted into the army and dispatched to Vietnam where he served for a year. When he returned, he resumed his education at Harvard University and started working as a reporter for The Washington Post. Besides, he started polishing his writing skills. Based on his war experiences, he published his first work in 1973.
Tim’s services for literature has obtained him many awards and honors during his lifetime. In 1973, his book, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home was termed as an outstanding book by The New York Times. Later, in 1979, he won the prestigious prize, The National Book Award, for his masterpiece, Going After Cacciato. Similarly, in 1995, he won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction for his work, In the Lake of the Woods. He also received awards such as Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the following year he earned $100,000 by winning Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. In 2010, Whittier College honored him with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Some Important Facts of His Life
- He is famous for writing novels about The Vietnam War and is chiefly acclaimed for his works, The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato.
- He started expressing his feelings and ideas in writing when he was a child, and also acted as an amateur magician in a theatre.
- Upon returning to the United States after the war, he was awarded a Combat Infantryman Badge, A Purple Heart and a Bronze Star along with the rank of the sergeant.
Tim O’Brien is considered a leading figure of the contemporary literary world. His services in the Vietnam War provided him a background for most of his writings. After returning from the war, he started documenting his war experiences in his articles, which he later used in his first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, published in 1973. This realistic book hit the shelves for its honest description of a soldier’s emotions. Later, in 1975, he came up with another heart-winning work, Northern Lights, followed by, Going after Cacciato in 1978. Both works received critical acclaim while Going after Cacciato is considered the finest book on the war. His next work, The Nuclear Age, portrays the United States during the cold war. In The Things They Carried, he captured the emotions of terror and homesickness and the things used by the battalion soldiers during the combat missions. His writings took a sharp turn with the publications of his comic novel, Tomcat in Love and July, July.
Tim, a towering figure, mesmerized the generations with his work. Marked with a realistic and straightforward writing style, his writings won universal acclaim. His word choice and diction speaks about the mastery of his art. That is why most of his works vary between simple and controversial style. A major aspect that separates Tim from other writers is his metafictional writing technique that questions the aspects of reality. His works also use verisimilitude to investigate the question of fiction and reality, often portraying time creating images and characters that do not exist. The recurring thematic strands in most of his literary pieces are war, guilt, and blame, weakness, willingness and unwillingness, and friendship. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, similes, symbolism, and sensual imagery to create a unique style.
Some Important Works of Tim O’Brien
- Best Novels: He was an outstanding writer, some of his best novels include Going after Cacciato, The Nuclear Age, In the Lake of the Woods, Tomcat in Love, and July, July.
- Other Works: Beside novels, he tried his hands on shorter fiction as well. Some of them include “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home”, “Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?” and “The Things They Carried.”
Tim O’Brien’s Impacts on Future Literature
Tim O’Brien, with his intellectual ideas and real-life experiences, left a permanent mark on world literature. His witty ideas and factual description of the war made him stand among the best war authors. His masterpieces provided the principles for writing about the war to the writers of succeeding generations. His success in documenting his war experiences lies in realistic and minute details that even modern writers compete to copy his style.
- “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” (The Things They Carried)
- “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.”
(The Things They Carried)
- “And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. 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.” (The Things They Carried)