In Tim O'Brian's "The Things They Carried," Lieutenant Jimmy Cross's obsession with Martha causes the death of Ted Lavender, an officer under his charge. The Lieutenant's mind was constantly distracted from the war by his thoughts of Martha. Jimmy has an obsession with her; he wants to know everything that goes on with her, and even around her. The Lieutenant has deep desires for her, but he pictures her the way her wants her to be. Daydreaming about Martha, instead of watching his surroundings, is what causes Ted Lavender to be killed.
The main problem with Jimmy's affection for Martha is that it is more an obsession. The number of daydreams which Jimmy has about Martha shows how much he thinks about her. Jimmy obsesses about what's going on around her. After Cross receives the pebble and reads the letter, "he wondered who had been with her that afternoon [
.] It was phantom jealousy, he knew, but he couldn't help himself. He loved her that much" (68). "[A]t full dark [Jimmy] would return to his hole and watch the night and wonder if Martha was a virgin" (65). His obsession is so extreme that he licks the envelopes, "knowing her tongue had been there" (65). When the Lieutenant is in his fantasy world he often pictures Martha in the most beautifully stunning matter, making Jimmy more infatuated with her. Jimmy always pictures Martha as perfect, elegant, a masterpiece to be cherished . Each time Jimmy pictures Martha, he pictures a specific area in a detailed manner, helping to further his infatuation. Her legs are, "certainly the legs of a virgin, dry and without hair, the left knee cocked and carrying her entire weight" (66). He remembers "touching that knee" and how he wanted to "touch that knee all night" (66). He focuses on her feet when he reads her letter about the ocean: "he imagined bare feet [
] her feet would be brown and bare, the toenails unpainted" (68). The descriptions of her are his desires for her to be perfect and...
Cited: O 'Brian, Tim. "The Things They Carried." Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2005. 65-76.
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