The short story ‘The Things they Carried’ goes on to catalogue the different kinds of things that the soldiers of the Alpha Company brought on their mission in Vietnam, both tangible and intangible. From physical objects like morphine, match boxes, arms and ammunitions to fear and guilt, every thing was taken by the soldiers. ‘The Things they Carried’ is basically a collection of short stories; the main attraction of the stories is that every character is described by the thing he had taken with him, and what possible implications that thing had in his life. For example, Cross carried love letters and Ted Lavender brought marijuana and tranquilizers because of his addiction.
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Thesis and the Plan of Development
Tim O’Brien takes the readers on a journey through the wilderness of Vietnam and the psychological complexities of the soldiers posted in there. His work is not about the outcomes of the very well reported war; the story deals with the emotional burden of the soldiers in the battle field. The main idea is difficult to understand for people who have not experienced that atmosphere; thus, the task of the writer was much more daunting. Every object taken by the soldiers has certain purpose, and the author successfully decodes the emotional and physical loads of all these objects in his writing. In a general view, ‘The Things they Carried’ is an illustration of the general conflict between love and war, but the deaths of the characters ultimately give the advantage to the war, as the characters are in a situation where it is hard to think of anything else.
Jimmy Cross is the Lieutenant of the Alpha Company; he is a romantic person in his heart. He bears different memories and reminders of his unflinching love for Martha, a girl with whom he got acquainted in his college in New Jersey. But Martha never reciprocated the love that Jimmy had shown her. Still, Cross keeps letters from her in his haversack and has the good luck stone in his mouth. After an excruciating day, he sits down and reads and re-reads her letters, only hoping that one day he will be able to return to his love. There is quite a detailed description of Martha’s photos that Jimmy carries, even his recollections of the single date between him and Martha. Jimmy wonders why he had not tied Martha on the day so that he could touch her all the night. As the leader, Jimmy carries compasses, maps as well as responsibility for the lives of men fighting under him, but also the never ending desire to get along with Martha.
Lavender was the first man to be shot while he was coming back from the bathroom. He fell hard under the weight of his loaded haversack. Jimmy, while trying to lead his men, still some times gets distracted by the thoughts of Martha, but he comes to his senses at last. That is when he leads his team to a village called Than Khe, and they burn everything, shoot the chickens and dogs, and go for a march in the heat of late afternoon. Tad’s death had influenced everyone. Kiowa and Norman Bowker, other soldiers of the formation, discuss the tiny period between life and death in the valley. Kiowa is surprised about the sequence in which Ted died. He was putting on his pants in one second and the next second he was shot and dead. As per Kiowa, there is something very unchristian about the death of Ted. But he also understands the mental condition of Jimmy.
Jimmy Cross was the most devastated man after Ted’s death. He was so devastated that he blamed his fantasies in the death of Ted Lavender. The next day after the incident, Jimmy decided to part with his memories; he gained so much mental strength that he burnt the letters and pictures of Martha in the heavy rain. He designs the plan for the march of the day and gathers his men. Ted’s death showed Jimmy that he was the true leader, and his task was to lead, not to lament for love in any way.
Conclusion: Echo of Thesis
Any revelation comes only after a chain of events; Jimmy’s revelation was engineered by the death of Ted Lavender. As per the descriptions, one can state that Jimmy is a hopeless romantic; his constant memories create certain distractions during his operations, which lead his team in the enemy terrain. His intersperse and profound thoughts come to a sudden end after the death of Lavender; hence, Cross decides to forget Martha and to think about current critical issues. Such a change in his character is a new kind of awakening. Cross’ psychological understanding of the negative aspects of his sentimentality as a destructive force in the times of war and his realization of the idea – it is better to lead than love – takes the story to a new dimension. The soldiers carried different things that would help them to come out of dire circumstances, materials that would help them to survive in the wilderness, but what about their emotional baggage? Jimmy’s mind is the true reflection of the soldiers’ psychology and mind.
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