Comparison of Two Short Stories

Comparison of Two Short Stories




Comparison of Two Short Stories


The book ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien starts by Tim describing his experience as a soldier while in Vietnam. The title of the book describes the variety of items that each of the soldiers carried when they went for their mission. While most of the things were tangible such as photos and other souvenirs, there were also abstract things such as fear and guilt. The different chapters in the book all feature the same characters who gradually express their different mindsets and experiences. Several members of the company are killed in Vietnam and all of these events are recorded form Tim’s perspective. Consequently, in the book ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ written by Flannery O’Connor, the story is centered on a family consisting of a grandmother, her son and her grandchildren who decide to go for a trip to the country. The disjointed relationship between the family members makes for interesting and polarized conversations throughout the book. However, the ending of the book is an anti-climax that ends with the family members being accosted and executed by gangsters while the grandmother is forced to watch the horrifying events.

Morality in the Two Short Stories

Morality is a common theme that has been addressed in both books exhaustively. However, the styles and approaches used to describe morality differ according to the author. In ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’, Flannery O’Connor uses the infamous gang of criminals headed by the Misfit to bring out the issue of morality. The setting of the book brings out a polarized family that is characterized by normal, law-abiding citizens such as Bailey, his wife and his mother. However, these individuals maintained ethical behavior throughout the narration. On the opposite end, the Misfit and his group live under a moral code of killing and stealing. These two separate groups of characters both abide strictly to their moral codes. The determination and hard stance displayed by both parties makes the book an interesting read. On one hand, the grandmother strongly believed in Christianity and her religion guided all her choices on a daily basis. Throughout the narrations, the grandmother constantly made Christian remarks at her grandchildren who showed undesirable behavior. Towards the end of the story, when the family is accosted by criminals, the grandmother resorts to praying steadfastly for her Lord to save them from evildoers. O’Connor creates an ideal situation where the two main protagonists are forced to make ethical decisions (Kennedy & Gioia, 2006). In these circumstances, the wrongdoers win the day when they assassinate all the members of the family while the grandmother pleads with her Savior to help them by changing the criminals’ intentions.

Conversely, in ‘The Things They Carried’, several instances existed where the morality of individuals was called into question. In the text, it is evident that there are no social codes or norms that control the behavior of the troops while in Vietnam. One of the main characters, Henry Dobbins clearly illustrates this struggle with ethics. Henry is solidly shielded from his experiences in the war by his strong beliefs that originate from a pair of pantyhose. This strong conviction allows him to believe that as long as he concentrates on his talisman, he would be safe from all harm. While this may not be a conventional example, it nevertheless illustrates the high level of morality that the author wanted to pass across to the readers. The other examples of soldiers in the text that exhibit a similar level of ethics similarly draw their strengths from the different ‘things that they carried’. Tim O’Brien uses distortion in his text making it almost impossible to glean any form of morality but it is evident that the soldiers were guided. Compared to the direct approach adopted by O’Connor, O’Brien was somewhat dynamic and complicated in his true meaning (Kennedy & Gioia, 2006). There are also two types of soldiers. One category of soldiers assumes their responsibility as a job that they expected. The other category adhere to a stronger moral code that makes them perceive restoring peace as a lifetime job that would still continue even after the Vietnam War was complete.


The two books, ‘The Things They Carried’ and ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ both contain numerous themes that are strongly presented by the authors. Morality stands out as a common theme between these two texts. However, the form and scope of morality may seem difficult to infuse in short stories due the precise nature of the account. Both O’Brien and O’Connor successfully managed to discuss the way in which their protagonists maintained their moral codes without compromising on the plot of the stories (Kennedy & Gioia, 2006). ‘The Things They Carried’ portrayed the liberal environment in which the soldiers operated in Vietnam. During the war, they were permitted to make their own decisions and this brought out several opportunities for their ethics to be tested. Similarly, ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ provided the Misfit and his criminal gang the opportunity to make ethical decisions concerning the lives of the stranded family.










Kennedy, X. J., & Gioia, D. (2006). Backpack literature: An introduction to Fiction, Poetry and drama. New York: Pearson/ Longman.

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