ENGL 111 04F2011
Professor Susan Orenstein
17 June 2011
An Intangible Weight to Carry
In an excerpt from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, O’Brien acquaints us with a story of a group of soldiers in the Vietnam War enduring extreme physical and mental circumstances. He goes to vast lengths to describe the tangible difficulties these men must face while linking us to the mental anguish. This story is a beautiful account of love and the lack thereof, pain and tragedy, imagination and reality, and all the weight of burdens carried throughout life in war. In great detail, O’Brien explains what these soldiers must carry on a daily basis during their journey of war. “Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates C rations, and two or three canteens of water.” (O’Brien 2) The weight of these items alone complicated travel under such circumstances, but we learn that each of these soldiers have sentimental items they haul along with them to feel comfort in such uncomfortable times. “First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha…They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack.” (O’Brien 1) We are offered a personal perspective into Cross, who spends his time at war fantasizing about a young lady named Martha from back home. He believes he is in love with Martha and spends his time finding comfort in daydreams of a woman who does not love him back. Throughout his reveries he begins to take less notice of his surroundings and loses focus of his duties as a lieutenant. “His mind wandered. He had difficulty keeping his attention on the...
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