Mental Scarring of the Boys in the Things They Carried

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Andrew Kronaizl
Sarah Garelik
English 210
April 8, 2011
The Things They Carried
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien puts the reader in the mind of a few characters who fought together in the Vietnam War. Throughout the story it becomes apparent that these “men” are nothing but children, children who have no business being in the jungles of Vietnam. A war with an unclear purpose in a very foreign land is one that children are least suited for. They do a very unsatisfactory job fighting the war, and the war just leaves them incredibly scarred for the rest of their lives if they make it out alive.

The story starts off by putting the reader into Jimmy Cross’ mind. Cross is the leader of the group that the book follows around Vietnam, he is only 24 or 25 years old and at towards the end of the book says he is not suited for the job at all. Cross occupies his mind all day with his beloved Martha, a woman from back home who has absolutely no romantic interest in Cross at all. He reads her letters, stares at her picture, keeps a pebble she sent in his mouth, and fantasizes about tying her to his bed and touching her knee all night. As though his confession of being an unfit leader was not enough he also gives away his inner most thoughts to the reader revealing just how incompetent he is. One day while fantasizing about Martha one of the men, Lavender, is shot in the head, Cross blames himself for the Lavender’s death and never lets it go. He burned Martha’s pictures and letters, and even threw away the pebble she sent him to help him focus on the safety of his men. Even 20 years later when Cross visits O’Brien, a fellow soldier and main storyteller of our novel, Cross is still full of guilt over Lavender’s death and obsessed with the uninterested Martha. “At one point, I remember, we paused over a snapshot of Ted Lavender, and after a while Jimmy rubbed his eyes and said he'd never forgiven himself for Lavender's death. It was something that...
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