Coping Mechanisms In Tim O'brien's The Things They Carried

1616 words - 6 pages

During the Vietnam war, soldiers were not exposed to the traditional coping mechanisms of our American society, as illustrated in Tim Obrien's The Things They Carried. These men were forced to discover and invent new ways to deal with the pressures of war, using only their resources while in the Vietnamese jungle. It was not possible for any soldier to carry many items or burdens with them, but if something was a necessity, a way was found to carry it, and coping mechanisms were a necessity to survive the war.  

 

Anti-depressants, psychiatrists, massages...there are many different things offered in American society today to help individuals fight the stress of life. People are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for medicine and treatments that promise to give them a better life. They will spend hours of their time at a masseuse or a psychiatrist in constant search for relief from the lives they live. During the Vietnam War, however, soldiers were not exposed to any of these traditional "coping mechanisms". Instead, these men were forced to discover and invent new ways to deal with the pressures of war, using only their resources while in the Vietnamese jungle. It was not possible for any soldier to carry many items or burdens with them, but if something was a necessity, a way was found to carry it, and coping mechanisms were a necessity to survive the war. Each soldier had a personal effect, story, or process that helped him wake up each morning and go to battle once again, and it was these personal necessities that enabled men to return home after the war. Stress was caused by the war itself and the continual conditions of battle, as well as the knowledge and guilt of killing another human, and having to view the devastation and death that surrounded the war. With no one except themselves and the men of their company, these soldiers had to carry their own necessary burdens and cope with issues as they could.

 

The conditions of war can be enough to drive a person to the edge of insanity, causing him or her to need something personal to bring them back to reality. They were in the war twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and the securities that each soldier had were the only things that kept them sane. Lt. Jimmy Cross repeatedly had thoughts and visions of Martha, left at home. He would read the letters she sent him and wonder about her as a tactic to keep him connected with the real world and the life he had left (3-4). At one point during the war, Martha even sent Cross a simple pebble from the Jersey shoreline - another small connection to the life he used to live, and to which he would someday return (9). He recalled memories of walks they used to take together, and Cross was able to relieve a few of the burdens of war when he had this pebble. It remained a physical connection to the life to which he was planning to return, and it continued to give him strength,...

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