The Things They Carried Essay

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What Role Do Women Play In The Things They Carried?

There were three types of women in The Things They Carried. These roles of women, displayed in Martha, Linda and Kathleen, were love, death, and an enabler. Although they are not seen in the story, women are very much on the mind of the men. Mainly because women could not be at war, O’Brien decided to introduce the women through the minds of the soldiers. The men idealize the women and portray their absence in letters, photographs and even in their imaginations. They do this as consolation and as a reminder that a world exists outside the monstrosity of Vietnam. Martha is Lt. Jimmy Cross's love, even though she had only considered him as a friend. O'Brien's uses their story to show a common trend between soldiers and the separation created by the war. When the soldiers returned home from the war, they quickly began trying to revitalize the lives they left before the war. While Lt. Jimmy Cross was faced with death in Vietnam, he refuses to believe Martha isn't a virgin and that they could one day be together. This was a safe, comforting thought contrary to one of rejection and possible death during war. For soldiers in war, many of them think of someone or something they love and it helps them to persevere through the tough times. “He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war”. (42) During his time in Vietnam, Cross is obsessed with Martha leading to Ted Lavender's death. He burns her letters and photos as an attempt to reconcile his guilt. However, it’s at that later meeting where he receives a new photograph of her and all the feelings of guilt is felt as she rejects him due to the fact that she was never truly interested in him. Another women who had left her mark was Linda, Tim O'Brien's childhood "love". Unfortunately she dies at the age of nine due to a brain tumor....
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