March 16, 2004
The Things They Carried
Tim O'Brien was an infantryman in during Vietnam War. He used those experiences to write many short stories including The Things They Carried. The story portrays how, "the things they carried" were weightless in comparison to their feelings of love and loss, fear and shame, and the torturous memories of death. "They all carried emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing- these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight."
The things they carried were determined by superstition and personal desires. In the beginning of the story we are introduced to Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. Cross is in love with a girl named Martha, and carries letters and pictures she has sent him. He also carries a good-luck pebble he received from Martha, and daydreams about her during their long marches. One day the Lieutenant and his men are marching through Than Kae, Cross is daydreaming as usual, when Ted Lavender is shot in the head and killed. They then "carried" Lavender to a helicopter. Before Lavender died he carried six or seven ounces of dope, which the men smoked after Ted was killed. Other men carried canned peaches, comic books, condoms, bibles, as well as personal weapons like slingshots, brass knuckles, and hatches. They shared the responsibility of carrying a 28lb mine detector. The detector was not extremely useful because of the shrapnel embedded in the ground, but it was still carried for the "illusion" of safety in a dangerous environment. All these things were to either help remind the men of home and what they were fighting for, or help them forget where they were and what they were doing.
The things they were required to carry depended on the mission, job title, as well as standard necessities. "Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, a .45 caliber pistol, as well as a strobe light." The