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Course Hero. "The Things They Carried Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 20 Jan. 2019. <>.

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Course Hero. "The Things They Carried Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed January 20, 2019.


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The Things They Carried | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • 1956

    Linda, the narrator's childhood love, dies of cancer.

    The Lives of the Dead
  • 1968

    The narrator graduates from college in May and is drafted in June.

    On the Rainy River
  • Spring 1969

    Ted Lavender dies. Jimmy Cross burns Martha's photos and letters.

    The Things They Carried
  • Spring 1969

    Lee Strunk and Kiowa are killed; the narrator confronts the need to kill enemy soldiers.

  • Winter 1969–Spring 1970

    Narrator is sent to the supply section; he and Azar "spook" the new medic.

    The Ghost Soldiers
  • 1975

    Saigon falls; the war ends; Norman Bowker writes a "long, disjointed letter" to the narrator.

  • 1978

    Norman Bowker hangs himself in the YMCA gym in his hometown.

  • 1979

    Jimmy Cross meets Martha at a class reunion and discerns why she has never married.

  • 1989

    The narrator and his 10-year-old daughter, Kathleen, visit sites in Vietnam where he served.

    Field Trip
  • 1989–90

    Twenty years after the war, the narrator is still writing stories about the war.

    The Lives of the Dead

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
The Things They Carried An epigraph from John Ransom's Andersonville Diary appears before the first story in the collection. Ransom was a Union ... Read More
Love Years after the war, Jimmy Cross visits the narrator. They reminisce, looking at photos of the platoon, "the faces incre... Read More
Spin The narrator tells some of the "sweet" stories he recalls, a wide range of anecdotes and memories of life in the platoon... Read More
On the Rainy River The narrator has never before told this story because it makes him "squirm." On June 17, 1968, he receives his draft not... Read More
Enemies While Alpha Company is on patrol, Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk have a "vicious" fight over "something stupid"—Dave's missi... Read More
Friends "Friends" is the other half of Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk's story and happens after the events in "Enemies." Lee and Dav... Read More
How to Tell a True War Story This selection weaves together the narrator's comments about war stories, different soldiers' reactions to Curt Lemon's ... Read More
The Dentist The narrator remembers Curt Lemon as someone who was "always puffing himself up," acting tough. Curt played risky pranks... Read More
Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong Before Rat Kiley joins Alpha Company, he serves with a medical detachment near the village of Tra Bong that stabilizes w... Read More
Stockings "Stockings" focuses on Henry Dobbins, a "good man" and "superb soldier" who performs an unusual ritual. He wraps his gir... Read More
Church Alpha Company camps near an "abandoned pagoda" tended by two monks. The monks barely react when the soldiers dig in, alt... Read More
The Man I Killed The narrator describes, repeatedly and in minute detail, the body of a young Vietnamese soldier killed by a grenade. The... Read More
Ambush The narrator's nine-year-old daughter, Kathleen, assumes that he writes "these war stories" because he killed someone. H... Read More
Style Alpha Company patrols a burned village where a girl of perhaps 14 dances by the ruins of her home, which has been burned... Read More
Speaking of Courage Norman Bowker is home in Iowa after the war. On the Fourth of July, he drives around the lake, watching people going abo... Read More
Notes In the spring of 1975, Norman sends the narrator a "long, disjointed letter." He hasn't found a "meaningful use for his ... Read More
In the Field The platoon searches for Kiowa's body. Lieutenant Cross notices a shaky young soldier exploring the mud with his hands. ... Read More
Good Form The narrator is a 43-year-old writer who was once a soldier in Quang Ngai Province. "Almost everything else," he admits,... Read More
Field Trip The narrator and his daughter Kathleen travel to the places in Vietnam where he was deployed. Kathleen is only 10 and ca... Read More
The Ghost Soldiers Rat Kiley treated the narrator the first time he was shot, moving under fire to check on him and joke about the wound. B... Read More
Night Life Mitchell Sanders explains how Rat Kiley "lost his cool." The patrol is moving at night because of rumors of new troops w... Read More
The Lives of the Dead The narrator claims that "stories can save us." In a story, "a kind of dream," the dead live again in the writer's or re... Read More
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