Relationships in The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried is a collection of stories about the Vietnam War, but in reality, the book centers around the relationships the men make, their connections to the world they left behind and the connections that they formed to Vietnam. The stories are not war stories, but stories about love, respect and the bonds made between men when they spend day after day fighting just to stay alive.
One of the clearest points in The Things They Carried is that of the importance of certain objects or feelings used by the soldiers of Alpha Company to survive the war. Jimmy Cross, the leader the group, carries a picture of a Martha, a girl who writes him from the states. Jimmy knows that there is no real relationship between the two, but he uses the picture the help keep him connected to the world he was forced to leave behind. He creates stories in his head about what will happen when he makes it back home, alive. The Bible carried by Kiowa was given to him by his father. When the book is mentioned, it is referring to the smell of the New Testament: the leather, glue, ink and paper. Kiowa carries the Bible as more of a remembrance then as a show of his faith. The stockings carried by Henry Dobbins came from his girlfriend. He carefully raps them around his neck each time the company moves out. Even after his girlfriend ends the relationship, Henry continues to wear the stockings because in his mind, their symbolism has not changed. All these items are psychological tools used by the soldiers to keep them connected to their homes and loved ones. The items are not important just because of who gave them to the soldiers, rather they are important because they seem like they are the last link to a world that has no place in the war. They represent the goodness and the innocence that is missing during the war. All the items helped the respective soldier to survive from day to day and to continue fighting the war.
The men rely on each other for entertainment to break up the endless days of marching though the Vietnam wilderness. With hours and hours of marching and no action the men need a release or the boredom would drive them crazy. An example of this is "Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kiley and Dave Jensen, the three of them leaping around barefoot while a bunch of villagers looked on with a mixture of fascination and giggly horror" (O'Brien, 36). They play checkers and tell stories. These men looked to each other for emotional support and reassurance since none was coming from the home front.
One of the most important things that helped the soldiers through the war was their friendship with each other. This bond that the soldiers formed helped them to survive, and helped the men of Alpha Company to cope with the war after they returned to the United States. "The bond that men form with each other in the heat of battle is incomprehensible to those who have...