O'brien's The Things They Carried Essay

1232 words - 5 pages

O'Brien's The Things They Carried

O’Connor remarks “The Things They Carried” is a short story that is
written “as an experience not an abstraction” and that “the meaning
has been embodied in it”. These quotations are truly pure in
description and interpretation of the short story as the reader, must
look beyond the crude physical properties of the objects and actions
chronicled and focus more upon their hidden meanings and messages.

O’Brien uses the physical characteristics of weight to make an impact
upon the reader to relate with the men. In emphasizing the soldier’s
everyday burden, the reader can easily relate to the situation in
general. As the story progresses, the main attention of the story
transfers from a physical sense of weight to an emotional sense of
burden. It is through this shift that “the meaning is truly embodied
in the story”. This shift shall be focused on and elaborated in this
essay.

The men in the story carried many things upon their shoulders.
Primarily, each man was assigned to carry the basic necessities of
life, which was standard operating procedure. These basic necessities
included objects such as bandages, knives, dog tags and uniforms. In
saying this, all of the men were somewhat created equal in the fact
that they were all ordered to carry the standard issued equipment
assigned to them. They all had to suffer and no one was spared. Beyond
this, the men branched off into their own individuality and
identities. Due to the fact of the immense raw weight that each man
was required to carry each day for their own survival purposes, a
soldier could carry very little in terms of weight that could reserve
for their personal belongings. Therefore, the men could carry those
objects most dear and precious to them. For example, Lt. Jimmy Cross
carried letters from Martha that he continually fantasized about.
Kiowa carried his grandfather’s old hunting hatchet as a way to hold
on to his cultural past.

The additional weight depended somewhat upon the soldier’s rank and
position. For example, the radiotelephone operator carried a
twenty-six pound radio as part of his position. The machine gunner,
Henry Dobbs, carried a twenty-three pound M-60 gun as part of his
duty. Most of the soldiers were either of the rank Private First Class
or Specialist Fourth Class, and therefore were known as “common
grunts”. PFC’s and Spec 4’s were required to carry their rifles and
grenade launchers. It is through all of this detailed description of
the field equipment (to the pound) that the physical hardships of the
men are truly described.

The emotional weight that each man endured is also described, but in a
more profound amount of mind compelling detail. In the description of
what Ted Lavendar was carrying at the time of his death, the author
describes the...

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