The Things They Carried

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Robert LaMache
Professor Story
3 December 2012
ENG112-R1
“The Things They Carried”

Throughout author Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”, one sees how tangible items help the soldiers cope with the horrors of war. The short story is set during the Vietnam War and follows the lives of the Alpha Company, a group of U.S soldiers. Some soldiers in the story are given items to carry specific to their job and rank in the military. For example the main character, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, carries the maps and compasses as the platoon’s leader and Rat Kiley, the company’s medic, carries morphine and other medical supplies he may need to treat his fellow soldiers. All the soldiers must carry essential items such as P-38 can openers, pocket, knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, salt tablets, lighters, sewing kits, C rations, and canteens of water. Together all these items usually weighed between fifteen to twenty pounds and during hot days seemed to weigh twice that, but what really shows their true feelings such as fear, love, and the longing to escape the war were the non-essential items that they carried.

The story starts with Cross looking over the letters of Martha, an English major at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. Cross went on a couple dates with Martha before the war and she writes him letters while over in Vietnam. Martha views Cross as a friend while Cross wants them to become lovers and thinks about her often in this context. Cross usually looks at the letters at night in his foxhole to escape from Vietnam for a while. Other members of the company also carried personal items that defined who they were. Henry Dobbins, a large man, carried extra rations with him, specifically canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen who was one of the few men to care about his hygiene in the field carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and bars of soap he had stolen from a hotel in Australia. Ted Lavender, a...
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