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"The Things They Carried" Essay

2145 words - 9 pages

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Huy TranProfessor SantilloENG1102-25124 April, 2014Themes Analysis in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien."The Things They Carried", written by Tim O'Brien and first published in 1990, is rated one of the best literary work about the Vietnam War. Stretching across the story are Tim's memories about Vietnam and some real events that he and his platoon mates experienced. Jimmy Cross, Rat Kiley, Ted Lavender, Henry Dobbins or Kiowa, members of the Alpha Team, did not only carry their belongings and heavy weapons for the war but also bore something invisible. It might be glorious, but might also be hatred, fearfulness and cowardice. The physical and emotional burden, the fear of shame, the haunting of death as well as the changing of women role is clearly reflected through those various characters.The "Things" in Tim O'Brien's story contains multiple implications in both literal and figurative aspects. The soldiers, while carrying their heavy physical equipment for the war, also carry a multitude of emotions. From the beginning of the story, O'Brien lists a series of necessities that members of the Alpha Team carried for survival such as C rations, pocket knives, can openers and water; "They carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate as a means of killing or staying alive." (O'Brien 7). Simultaneously, the soldiers bring things related to their military ranks. Jimmy Cross, the leader, packs a compass, a codebook and "the responsibility for the lives of his men." (O'Brien 5). Rat Kiley, the medic, brings morphine, malaria tablets and surgical tape with him. They carry weapons, for example, the M-60, the M-16, the M-79, slingshot, knuckles and hatchet. O'Brien always lists the weight of these equipment to emphasize the physical burden and then to help assert the unweighed fear the soldiers bore (O'Brien 6). Besides, the soldiers carry some individual items that seem irrelevant to the war. Kiowa brings the New Testament; Henry Dobbins carries his girlfriend's pantyhose; Jimmy Cross carries 2 photos of the girl he loves and Ted Lavender carries tranquilizers and marijuana with him. According to Wells, those unnecessary personal items itself carry an emotional meaning more than the physical meaning. It makes the soldiers feel comfort and helps calm them down while facing with the great fear. (Wells 46). For example, Dobbins's pantyhose and Jimmy Cross's photos are the symbol of love the soldier carries to the battlefield. Those items reminds their sweet memories with their beloved women, which helps warm them up and make them feel secure. Marijuana and tranquilizers are the remedies to cure their emotional sickness from the fierceness of war. In parallel with the physical burden, the soldiers also carry the intangible emotional burden from the war. (O'Brien 20). Guilt is the greatest emotional burden that the soldiers have to face when they enter the war. Jimmy Cross will never forgive himself for...

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