The soldiers who served during the Vietnam War carried more than their fair share of tangible and intangible items. The soldiers bore the weight of their packs, they lugged around heavy equipment, and they struggled to cope with the violence and death that surrounded them. But the heaviest item that they would bear would not be by choice at all. Every passing day that the soldiers served in this war, more weight would be added to this item. When the time came for the soldiers to return home, they laid down their heavy packs, they returned the equipment that belonged to their government, and they waited on the “Freedom Bird” that would carry them safely home to their loved ones. However, the heaviest item, the weight of the intangible emotion, could never be laid down, given back, or taken off. One critical analysis of Tim O’Brien’s short story “The Things They Carried” says, “The weight under which the men struggle cannot be lightened by the discarding of war equipment for it extends far beyond the physical reminders” (Korb, par. 6). “The Things They Carried” invites the reader to sympathize with the soldiers’ inability to shake off the intangible weight of emotion while shedding the tangible weight of the things they carried. The tangible form of weight, or the weight that can be touched, is defined by Webster’s Dictionary in the noun form as, “The standard or established amount that a thing should weigh.” In the opening paragraphs of “The Things They Carried,” O’Brien states, “The things they carried were largely by necessity…they carried pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellant…C-rations…cigarettes…packets of Kool-Aide… and two or three gallons of water. Together, these items weighed fifteen to twenty pounds” (320). O’Brien emphasizes the weight of each item to tell us implicitly what each soldier deems most important: “Henry Dobbins carried extra rations…Dave Jensen carried a toothbrush and foot powder…Ted...
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