AP English 4
19 August, 2014
Physical and Emotional Burdens
In The Things They Carried, O 'Brien talks about multiple different things that the men at war carry. They take things with them that soldiers always have like guns, bags, grenades, ammo, food, water, and things like that, but they also carry personal items like Kiowa 's Bible and moccasins, or Jensen 's vitamins. The men however, have more than just physical items. They have things that always stay with them like emotional and figurative things. Throughout the novel, O 'Brien goes back to the theme of things carried, whether that be in necessities, superstitious items, or emotional burdens.
O 'Brien uses the first chapter to explain, in detail, the physical things that the men carried. He tells of how the men take their, "compass, maps, code books," (O 'Brien 5) along with "the M-60, M-16, M-79 - they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate as a means of killing, or staying alive." (7). These young men at war put anything that can possibly help them in their bags. Even if it is not necessary for the specific mission they are on, they take these items with them because of their collective fear of the unknown. Their cumbersome, bulky, heavy backpacks and gear weigh on the men physically, and also as shown throughout the book, take a toll on their morale. O 'Brien uses this style of writing and the theme as a tool to impress upon his audience just how heavy the burdens of the men really are. The longer they have to carry all these things the worse it got.
The physical items that they lug with them are not limited to items issued by their generals. Many of them also carry superstitious things that they think might help throughout the war. Jimmy Cross has his, "good-luck charm from Martha. It was a simple pebble" (6), and "Dobbins carried his girlfriend 's pantyhose wrapped around his neck" (9), and Kiowa "always took along his New
Cited: O 'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. New York, Boston: Mariner, 2009. Print.