The main thing that we learn about Jimmy Cross at the beginning of the story is that he is a romantic, and that there is one specific girl that Jimmy finds himself infatuated with. Unfortunately, a person in the position that Jimmy was in cannot afford to be a romantic who daydreams constantly about a girl back home. The extent to which he values these letters, which aren‘t really even love letters, can be shown in the care he takes of them: “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” (O’Brien, 2). From the extreme care that he takes of the letters, we can see that they are highly prized possessions. He is obviously infatuated with the girl as he wonders if “Martha was a virgin” (2). Despite the contents of the letter obviously lacking in any sort of romantic intent from Martha, Jimmy Cross is obviously thinking about a future with this girl once he gets back from Vietnam. It is this distraction that leads Cross to making the mistakes that he does in the story.
Because of his distraction, the soldier, Ted Lavender, is shot. The author describes Jimmy’s distraction by stating “Lieutenant Cross gazed at the tunnel. But he was not there. He was buried with Martha under the white sand at the Jersey shore” (12). Cross was supposed to be in charge of the platoon, and he was supposed to keep his men safe. He could hardly pay attention to the extent that he needed to and think about Martha to the extent that he did. He realizes that he is to blame for Lavender’s death: “He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead” (16). If nothing had happened, then the argument could be made that his daydreaming was harmless, though this is obviously not the case. While this particular death would have been