Tim O'Brien's title story "The Things They Carried" juxtaposes the personal and the political together with the romantic and the violent. With Lieutenant Jimmy Cross as the protagonist, the story cuts between his romantic fantasy with Martha and the threats and hardship the platoon is experiencing.
Later, Cross believes that his fixation on this romantic fantasy has led to the death of one of his men in the Platoon, Ted Lavender. Engulfed in guilt, he destroys all the letters and gifts Martha gives him.
Although Cross's guilt is deeply emotional, the story arouses sympathy and empathy mainly through means, such as describing as a matter of fact the physical, psychological, and emotional weights the soldieries carry. Each of them carries objects with sentimental value to offer them a little comfort during the war. In a large-scaled violent and traumatic event like the Vietnam War, it is very likely for people to overlook the lives of individuals who are buried in the great number of casualties.
The narrative recounts most events and emotions with a plain tone and with no adornments or glorifications of war. He describes the soldiers as automatons who no longer have volitions and will. They simply march along, carrying all the weight on their shoulders. Such a description vividly depicts how war dehumanizes those who are involved. Thus, O'Brien chooses to juxtapose the horror of war with the human side of the soldiers, such as the playful bickering among them, and their emotional attachment to certain objects. ...