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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED - Essay Example

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

The characters of the story are foot soldiers of Alpha Company which is serving in Vietnam and is commanded by First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. The basic theme of the story is the tangible and intangible items carried by the soldiers in Vietnam War and the effect they have on their personalities during the war. The story revolves around Lieutenant Cross, his feelings for his college crush and the death of fellow soldier Ted Lavender. Interestingly, the narrator of the story, O’Brien, who himself is a soldier of Alpha Company differentiates the other soldiers by the things which they carry. “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” (O'Brien 14). All the soldiers carry basic fighting supplies e.g. guns, ammunition and ponchos, which can be wrapped around their bodies if they die. However, more importantly, they carry many other personal items. In Army’s slang, carrying of goods by the soldiers is known as “humping”. According to O’Brien, all the soldiers hump many different things in order to satisfy their emotional bonds or feelings. One of the soldiers carries an illustrated edition of bible, another wears the stocking of his girlfriend around his neckline, yet another man carries a slingshot, another condoms and another some funny comic books. Alpha Company soldiers carry a host of physical items in Vietnam in order to ward off emotional liabilities. According to O’Brien, one such liability is the requirement of soldiers to deal with the apprehensions of reality and fantasy. The consciousness of this apprehension creates a lot of emotional problems for First Lieutenant Cross during his stay with the company. Cross believes that he was so preoccupied with the memories of his college crush Martha and the dreams of life they might spend after war that he had become negligent. “….and Martha wore a tweed skirt, and during the final scene, when he touched her knee….” (O’Brien 4). He therefore, blames himself and his negligent attitude towards his men for the death of Ted Lavender’s, a low ranking soldier of the company. If the readers consider the story as a clash between war and love, then most certainly, the death of Ted Lavender and consequent cynicism of Lieutenant Cross suggest success of war in this clash. The story unfolds the doubts and gloominess that the war brings on the nature of the soldiers. Such gloominess and pessimism can be seen in the character of Cross who blames himself for the death of Ted Lavender. Prior to Ted’s death, Cross was completely engrossed in the memories of Martha and remains gripped by most petty matters e.g whether Martha is a virgin or why does she sign the letter with the word “Love”. However, after Ted’s death, when he decides that it was due to his preoccupation and distractions caused by the thoughts of Martha, he expresses his emotions and anger with the only possible manner; by burning the pictures and letters of Martha, in an endeavor to disassociate himself with the what he sees as the root cause of his negligence and a negative force. By the end of the story, Cross concludes that it is far better to be loved by someone than to lead troops in war, which shows exactly how war and the death of a subordinate had disturbed his mental balance. The emotional liabilities which the soldiers of Alpha Company face are magnified by their inexperience in war and young age. Most of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam were in their early twenties; some even in late teens. Before coming for war, they were ...Show more

Summary

The Things They Carried is an influential reflection regarding the incidents experienced by the foot soldiers in Vietnam War. It is a collection of short stories written by Tim O'Brien, in which the first story is also named as The Things They Carried. …
Author : mandyhowe
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED essay example
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