The Things They Carried Quotes

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They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.

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A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

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But the thing about remembering is that you don't forget.

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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.

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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.

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They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

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I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

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War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.

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I survived, but it's not a happy ending.

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But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world.

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It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.

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But this too is true: stories can save us.

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What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end...

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He wished he could've explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.

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Together we understood what terror was: you're not human anymore. You're a shadow. You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted to believed in. You know you're about to die. And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero and all you can do is whimper and wait.

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It was my view then, and still is, that you don't make war without knowing why. Knowledge of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can't fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can't make them undead.

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It wasn't a question of deceit. Just the opposite; he wanted to heat up the truth, to make it burn so hot that you would feel exactly what he felt.

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Well, right now I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like...I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading. [...] An old one. It's up on a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book hasn't been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody'll pick it up and start reading.

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It’s a hard thing to explain to somebody who hasn’t felt it, but the presence of death and danger has a way of bringing you fully awake. It makes things vivid. When you’re afraid, really afraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world. You make close friends. You become part of a tribe and you share the same blood- you give it together, you take it together.

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Linda was nine then, as I was, but we were in love...it had all the shadings and complexities of mature adult love and maybe more, because there were not yet words for it, and because it was not yet fixed to comparisons or chronologies or the ways by which adults measure such things...I just loved her. Even then, at nine years old, I wanted to live inside her body. I wanted to melt into her bones -- that kind of love.

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I was a coward. I went to the war.

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They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.

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You don't know. When I'm out there at night I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark - I'm on fire almost - I'm burning away into nothing - but it doesn't matter because I know exactly who I am.

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But in a story I can steal her soul.

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But I do like churches. The way it feels inside. It feels good when you just sit there, like you're in a forest and everything's really quiet, expect there's still this sound you can't hear.

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I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story.

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A lot like yesterday, a lot like never.

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He had an opinion of himself, I think, that was too high for his own good. Or maybe it was the reverse. Maybe it was a low opinion that he kept trying to erase.

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Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons.

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What would you do?Would you jump? Would you feel pity for yourself? Would you think about your family and your childhood and your dreams and all you're leaving behind? Would it hurt? Would it feel like dying? Would you cry, as I did?

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In war you lose your sense of the definite, hence your sense of truth itself, and therefore it's safe to say that in a war story nothing is ever absolutely true.

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I'll picture Rat Kiley face, his grief, and I'll think, You dumb cooze. Because she wasn't listening. It wasn't a war story. It was a love story.

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Even then, at nine years old, I wanted to live inside her body. I wanted to melt into her bones - THAT kind of love.

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You can tell a true war story by the questions you ask. Somebody tells a story, let's say, and afterward you ask, 'Is it true?' and if the answer matters, you've got your answer . . . Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

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The bad stuff never stops happening: it lives in its own dimension, repaying itself over and over.

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The town could not talk, and would not listen. "How'd you like to hear about the war?" he might have asked, but the place could only blink and shrug. It had no memory, therefore no guilt. The taxes got paid and the votes got counted and the agencies of government did their work briskly and politely. It was a brisk, polite town. It did not know shit about shit, and did not care to know.

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Once someone's dead you can't make them undead.

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When your afraid,reallyafraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world.

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But in a story, which is a type of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world.

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It's not just the embarrassment of tears. That's part of it, no doubt, but what embarrasses me much more, and always will, is the paralysis that took my heart. A moral freeze: I couldn't decide, I couldn't act, I couldn't comport myself with even a pretense of modest human dignity.

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And as a writer now, I want to save Linda's life. Not her body--her life.

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What stories can do, I guess, is make things present.I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again.

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There was the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry.

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They were afraid of dieing, but they were even more afraid to show it.

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Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment.

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First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rusack. In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending.

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It was a flight, a kind of fleeing, a kind of falling, falling higher and higher, spinning off the edge of the earth and beyond the sun and through the vast silent vacuum where there were no burdens and where everything weighed exactly nothing.

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The presence of danger has a way of making you feel fully awake.

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Sometimes the bravest thing in the world was to sit through the night and feel the cold in your bones.

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Story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

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