“The Things They Carried”
How does death affect the behavior of people? Although death affects everyone’s behavior differently, knowledge of one’s imminent death is a main force behind behavioral changes. This knowledge causes emotions that motivate people to act in ways that they normally would not. In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” the knowledge of death and its closeness causes the men in the story to alter their behavior by changing they way they display power, modifying emotions to relieve guilt, and by exhibiting different actions to ease anxiety.
Death can change how people display their power or how they use their existing power by altering their behavior. Power is an emotionally strong element to have; power can make someone feel better by knowing that they have control over someone or something else. When fear is present, power can aid in easing the anxiety by giving the person the emotional lift that is present when control is felt. The power, which is present in the story, is physical power and an example is Norman Bowker carrying a thumb of a boy that had been killed. The carrying of the thumb shows that he had power over the boy; this gives him some relief to know he had that kind of control. Cross’s power, over the rest of the men, increased his fear of death for all the men not just himself because he is responsible for them. With his responsibility, Jimmy Cross alters his behavior to keep all of his men safe, and he only does this because of his power. An example of Jimmy Cross changing his behavior because of power was after Lavender was killed, when he led the troop into the town of Than Khe to destroy everything they could. Jimmy had been acting more passively about the war before Lavender was killed, but after he was shot Lieutenant Cross’s power over the town and his men made him take them into the village to destroy it when he would not have normally....
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