An Analysis of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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Question: Why does lieutenant across burn Martha’s letters at he end, how has he changed by the end of the chapter?

After the death of fellow soldier, Ted Lavender, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross convinced himself that his thoughts of Martha distracted him to a point where he led his own men astray, resulting in Lavender’s sudden death. Cross doesn’t want men to perish because of his own incompetence and recklessness, so he sacrifices the one thing loved – Martha, for the sake of his troops. Cross emerges from a man obsessed about returning home to his beloved Martha, to a man who sacrificed his own desires for the well being of others. “He would accept the blame for what had happened to Ted Lavender. He would be a man about it. He would look them in the eyes, keeping his chin level, and would issue the new SOP’s in a calm, impersonal tone of voice, a lieutenant’s voice, leaving no room for argument or discussion … He would not tolerate laxity. He would show strength distancing himself.” (Page 25) The burning of the letters also acts as a “wake up” call for Cross, he realizes that fantasies have no place in war-torn Vietnam, that many men count on him just for their survival, he like everyone else has to face the grief and horrors that come from war, grow from these struggles and lead. It’s interesting to see that Tim O’Brien chose the name “Jimmy Cross” as the protagonist and heroin in this short story. It was definitely not a coincidence that the lieutenants’ initials are “J.C”, or his last name is Cross, or that in the end Jimmy learned to sacrifice himself for others –all in reference to Jesus Christ.
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