In the novel, The Things They Carried, written by Tim O’Brien, there is an apparent main character, Lieutenant Cross. Throughout the duration of the novel, we the readers learn of Cross’ love for a woman named Martha. Martha is a friend of Lt. Cross from back home, although he wishes that she could be more than just a friend. He once took her on a date, but it did not escalate to anything more before he left for war. For a majority of the book, Lt. Cross carries a pebble in his mouth, and letters with him wherever he goes. Both of these objects were sent to him by Martha. The fact that he carries around both of these symbolizes his love for her, and that he does not want to ever let her go. If he let go of the objects, it would symbolize the act of letting go of her, and that is most certainly the last thing on his agenda.
At one point during the story, Lieutenant Cross is sent out on a mission. However, Cross was not focused. Rather than focusing on the enemy and the task at hand, he was fantasizing about the life he might lead with Martha after war. Due to his distraction, Cross was not paying attention, and was not able to give cover fire when a fellow soldier, Ted Lavender was shot. Cross saw the death as a result to his negligence. After this occurrence, Lt. Cross burns Martha’s pictures and letters in an attempt to distance himself from the sentimentality he sees as a destructive and distracting force during wartime. This action practically symbolizes Cross giving up on love. He no longer carried around the letters, or kept the pebble in his mouth.
In conclusion, the entire book is made up of events and actions that symbolize something in one way or another. In my opinion, the letters and pebble from Martha are prominent and most significant. Lieutenant Cross’s love for Martha was always present in the back of my mind while I was reading.