Things They Carried

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Worth The Weight?
“War is hell,” a famous quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman. In The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, we perceive the hell that men in war undergo. This enticing story is about the personal, mental, and physical hardships of soldiers in the Vietnam War. The title is revealing to the story itself by describing the items the soldiers carried. The tangible items that they lugged around are listed to the reader, but we are also shown the emotional burdens that lay deep in their hearts; this emotional baggage weighing much more than their physical luggage. It is substantial to identify this aspect because the things they carried in their hearts develop both hope and fear; they carry hope for their survival, but they carry the fear of possible death. Hope and fear are apparent in the tale when O’Brien explains what the soldiers in this story carry through the war. The author continues to list all the items hauled by these men, including helmets, canteens and ammunition, but it is no error that he begins the list with the relatively light weight of love letters from home. The letters are symbolic of another burden, which is a heavy one indeed. Every member of the platoon carries physical baggage which they can drop along the roadside, but the equally heavy emotional baggage can never be taken off. The men require these objects as they continue with the war; they are always marching, never staying long in one spot, so they need to carry all their necessities with them. What they carry also symbolizes what they would possess in their homes back in the United States. For example, the men carry a sewing kit despite realizing they will most likely never bother with it. They maintained carrying comparable items because it allows them to reminisce about home, which create hope as they look forward to going home. As the things that the men carry are introduced, it becomes noticeable how the weights of the objects differ. Military tools, such as jungle boots, jackets, and the mine detector, put a lot of physical weight on the soldiers. Other items they carry that remind them of home, such as the sewing kit, are not as heavy. The military items, being so heavy, put strain on the soldiers, like the fear that weighs them down, and the lighter items are like the hope that keeps them going. The heavy items seem to get heavier as time goes on, as their fears become heavier, and the weight of the light items, that create so much hope, become less heavy while they get lost or get thrown away. Eventually these men will only carry their military items, items that create so much fear, and they will lose their light items, their hope, as more days go by. The concept of both hope and fear are noted in the layout of the writing as well. Through the journey of the story, O’Brien makes a giant leap from story to description, from hope to fear. He is very abrupt in explaining the materials they carried and their weight, yet he shows Lieutenant Cross’ story in a very emotional way. The manner that the he does this elicits the two personalities of Lieutenant Cross; the story exhibits his personal, humane side and the things he carried exhibits his serious professional side; to be a leader and a soldier. These two independent matters are explained in a very unique setup. Numerous times in the story, O’Brien abruptly goes from the description of the items they carry and suddenly he jumps into the mind of Lieutenant Cross. Lieutenant Cross’ personal human side is concealed by the soldier in him; his decision to take charge and lead comes about after he lets out his emotions and realizes they’re only doing him and his men harm. Love is an emotion the soldiers carry as well. An emotion unfolded throughout the story, love is the reason for hope for the soldiers look forward to being in the presence of their loved ones back home, however love unfolds fear as well for death surrounds them. “Almost everyone humped...
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