Of all the literary lenses, one would not think that feminism would be a prevalent topic in a war novel. In Tim O’Brien’s iconic book, The Things They Carried, the idea that women were just as important as men acts an important theme, however from a different perspective. Movies and epic war stories tell of the heroic actions of the World’s finest: bulky men with an appetite for battle. Yet, there always lied a backbone. Comfort, inspiration, ease, all things that women provided to soldiers during any war. Yet, sometimes things did not go as planned and rash actions were made. O’Brien’s masterful use of lenses creates an interesting novel, one that will stand the test of time, however, the ...view middle of the document...
During the first chapter of the novel, the reader learns of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and his company, each carrying their own burden (hence the name of the book). Some of these items were for comfort while others were for survival. Some men, such as Henry Dobbins, a machine gunner, carried pictures or other items depicting the women in their lives. Of all the examples, Jimmy Cross has the most notable. Cross had a love interest back at home named Martha. Almost every night after he “tucked” his men into their foxholes, he would pull out pictures of Martha. This could be described as Lt. Cross’s inspiration, his will to go on. In other words, women were providing him hope.
Along with pictures for inspiration, other carried items to bring good luck. One such soldier was Henry Dobbins, who carried the pantyhose of his girlfriend back home. Some soldiers declared them magic after he tripped a land mine and survived a firefight. Some had pictures, others had good luck charms, many had both.
Jimmy also had a good luck charm. Along with the letters, Martha had sent over a pebble from the Jersey Shore. Every night, Cross would place the pebble in his mouth and taste the salt, wondering if Martha and he could ever have anything. Martha only fueled this love by sending him letters, of which Cross obsessed over, and perhaps mocked Cross altogether. Of course, Martha never knew of Jimmy’s love interests. She never knew what she meant to him. The reader never actually knows if she ever even wanted a romantic ordeal. Even so, Martha provided Jimmy with a light at the end of the tunnel. She provided him hope.
Although men brought the comforts of home to the battle zone by bringing keepsakes from their other life, some may not be so comforting at all.
Winston Churchill once said, “Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others” (Petrie and Churchill). For Mark Fossie, one of his days arrives with his beloved, longtime girlfriend, Mary Anne when she trekked to Vietnam to be with him. The story is told by Rat Kiley, a prototypical storyteller, to Mitchell Sanders, a strange story at that. Mary Anne could be described as the typical American girl, someone with a certain innocence about them. Of course, this innocence would change when Mark Fossie invited her to “Nam” to be closer to him. She arrived at the encampment by helicopter, with a fresh supply of goods and soldiers. Her innocence was noticeable from the start. Thus, the men originally saw her as a sex object.
However, over time something changed. She became curious with the environment and began to explore. She becomes less concerned with her appearance, essentially acting more masculine. In all, she become colder, more rugged and fierce. She even begins to go on night raids with the Green Berets, even doing things some of them would balk at. One day, Mary Ann explains to Fossie that she has found a piece of her soul that was missing. “I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails,...