I would like to explore the concept of love, the dichotomy of the masculine/feminine perspective and how it relates to the two short stories. Also I will explore the ideas of “phantoms” or in other words the imaginary idealization and objectification of the characters.
The two stories I have chosen are “The Things They Carried,” written by Tim O’Brien and “Love Letters” written by Patricia Zelver. Both of these stories in some way deal with war and love letters and how these letters affect the main characters. We see varying points of view and different levels of importance placed on the love letters in these two stories, especially by the main characters, Lt. Jimmy Cross and Emily Abbot.
One of the most interesting differences between these two stories is that they both come from opposite perspectives. “The Things They Carried” is told from the male perspective and takes place during the Vietnam War, while “Love Letters” is told from a female perspective and is told some time after World War Two.
In “Love Letters” we have a very interesting view point in that it is brought forward from the past. These letters are shared between Emily (the mother) and her daughter Rebecca. These letters are juxtaposed between their faulty relationship. In these letters Emily has a chance to explore her past and build a relationship with her daughter. The way Zelver allows her characters to examine these letters and the new meaning Emily finds in them we as the reader are privy to the dynamic relationship between soldier and the ideal girl back home.
What I would like to do with this paper is to blend the voices of all of the main characters together and perhaps come up with a more holistic picture of the significance of these love letters and how they relate to each of the main characters and the wars that are taking place. I would also like to see if I could illumine the differences and put them into their proper light and show the varying importance of these letters between the main characters, Lt. Jimmy Cross and Miss Emily Abbot.
We will start in the jungles of Vietnam with Lt. Jimmy Cross. In the short story “The Things They Carried” Lt. Cross is constantly thinking about a girl named “Martha.” If we look at the two stories Martha has the potential to become Lt. Cross’s Miss Emily Abbot. The story begins with a reference to Martha, and I believe we can also see an echo of what Private Schneider may have been thinking about Emily. “First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha…They were not love letters, but…[he] was hoping…” (O’Brien 1053).
We can see this same sentiment enacted by Private Schneider in “Love Letters,” he writes to Emily and says “Still waiting for a letter and that photograph, I think of you constantly,” (Zelver 1371). These “love letters” we find through the readings are nothing more than hopes for love by the men who read or write them. The biggest similarity between the stories...