The Things They Carried

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  • Topic: Christian cross, Dariush Mehrjui
  • Pages : 5 (2105 words )
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  • Published : April 20, 2008
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“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien is a short story base on the lives of a group of soldiers during the later years of the war in Vietnam. In this story, O’Brien examines the burdens of the soldiers and the effects that these burdens can have on man in life-threatening situations. The author describes these burdens referring to the weight that the soldiers carry. These soldiers have to go trough great physical strain but also mental and emotional difficulties that weigh them down immeasurably. The most obvious need of the men in the story is the supplies that they carry that will keep them physically alive. O'Brien makes this clear by listing every detail and accounting for every ounce of food, clothing and weaponry. He also establishes the importance by listing those items first in the story. "The things they carried were largely determined by necessity," he states on page 2, and he goes on to discuss rations, water, defensive clothing, and necessary sleep gear (2-3). But ironically, in this paragraph he also includes items such as Ted Lavender's "six or seven ounces of premium dope," Rat Kiley's comic books, and Kiowa's Bible and his distrust of the white man (2-3). This indicates the importance of these things to the men, no matter how ironic that may be, because obviously illicit drugs and comics are not necessary to the common man for physical survival purposes. But this irony suggests the desperation of the situation that the men faced, a situation that could place comics on the same level as food. Perhaps the emptiness that the men felt drove them to think that they had to carry all of these extra items to survive, because they filled the emotional void that was in their heads, created by the numbingly horrific violence of the war. Another substantially detailed necessity of the men is their military supplies. O'Brien goes into minute detail describing the supplies that the men used for defense purposes. Primarily, he lists the standard weaponry for war, the rifles, grenades,the flak jacket and helmet (6- 7). He relates the enormous burden of weight that Ted Lavender was carrying when he is shot, and how that weight caused him to fall like "a big sandbag or something - just boom, then down." (7) The next passage describes all of the extra weapons they carried, ranging from fragmentation grenades to brass knuckles and a feathered hatchet (8-9). The wide variety and diversity of the weapons the men carry indicate the tremendous need to kill, by any possible means. "They carried all that they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried." (9) These burdens - the supplies the men carried to stay physically alive - are placed on the same level in terms of description as the objects carried that provided emotional sustenance to the men of the platoon. O'Brien makes no distinction in terms of writing style between the discussion of food and weapons and that of good luck charms and reminders of home. This is clearly evidenced in the previously mentioned passage on page 4, when the discussion of the men's habits and creature comforts are placed in the same paragraph as the lists of rations and sleep gear. Another extremely significant example of emotional sustenance is given in the descriptions of Lieutenant Cross's attachment to Martha. He carries her letters and reads them daily (1-2), and his love for her, as well as the mystery of her feelings for him, drives him, keeps him going, and gives his life meaning. He also carries her photographs (5-6) and the pebble she sends him (9) as constant reminders of her. But despite the limited weight that these possessions actually contain (the pebble is described as almost weightless on page 9), they prove to be huge burdens to Lieutenant Cross. They bring back memories, such as the night at the movies when Martha would not kiss him back, as well as stimulate constant fantasies at random times, such as when Lee Strunk...
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