Fighting For Dominance
Tim O'Brien tells a highly emotional story, “The Things They Carried,” in which he weaves two memories of First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross's life together. These two significant parts of Cross seem to be trying to compete to be the more dominant, one being of lovely Martha from back home who has captured Cross's heart and attention; she sent him letters that “were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping” (1) for a sweet declaration of love. Cross's other life is that of the moment, where he is in the middle of the Vietnam War. The narrator describes his as well as seven other men's journey while they venture through this danger and of the things carried by each of the men “largely determined by necessity” (1). The symbolic letters from Martha are prominent throughout the entirety of Tim O'Brien's short story, however the connotation associated with these tokens does not remain consistent. These very contextual symbols are introduced from the very beginning of O'Brien's story, assuring the reader that this will not be the only time these significant letters will play a vital role. The meaning of these letters are personal and powerful to First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and while he progresses forward through his journey, tragic events occur that highly affect Cross's perspective completely, cruelly twisting the meaning of Martha's letters. At the beginning of this story, Cross comes across as a perhaps naïve young man that does not quite know what he has gotten himself into. Through the course of this story, as Cross and his men struggle under the weight of the things carried physically and emotionally, Cross grows as a man as he learns to put aside distractions and puts his men as his first priority, though he learns this the hard way. The symbolic things O'Brien's characters carry are both literal and highly figurative. In addition to carrying the expected physical loads, each man bears emotional loads consisting of terror, longing,...
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