The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien

All of the men from Tim O'Brien's book "The Things They Carried" carried physical items and unresolved emotional baggage. The men held onto the physical items and inside held the feelings to help them cope with and escape from the Vietnam war. However, after the war, they carried memories and scars that reminded them of and brought them back to Vietnam.

In the first chapter of the book, O'Brien discusses the physical items the men carry with them. In addition to the expected gear of war the men also carried a unique blend of assorted items. Most of these items served as some sort of escape from the war. For instance, Lieutenant Cross carried with him reminders of a girl he loved named Martha. Despite his belief that the love was not mutual, her letters and good luck pebble served to help him daydream about what might be after the war. Henry Dobbins carried a pair of his girlfriend's pantyhose around his neck in addition to extra rations due to his large size. On the other hand, Ted Lavender carried marijuana and tranquilizers to escape the horrors of war and ease his anxiety.

Lieutenant Cross carried more than just his letters from Martha. He also carried maps and compasses which symbolized his responsibility for the men. Early in the book, his daydreams and responsibilities collided creating a moral dilemma. When Ted Lavender was shot after using the bathroom, Cross held himself personally responsible because instead of paying attention to his men, he was distracted with thoughts of Martha. The burden of carrying both of these items became too much. Therefore Cross decided to burn all his letters from Martha and focus on his responsibility for the men. In Henry Dobbins case, he wore his girlfriends pantyhose because the smell and feel of them reminded him of home, which gave him an escape. However, O'Brien also showed the reader how prevalent superstitions were in Vietnam. After surviving a few...
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