The Importance Of Linda In "The Things They Carried"

1108 words - 4 pages

In the last chapter entitled "The Lives of the Dead", Tim O'Brien introduces Linda, a nine-year-old girl he claims he was in love with as a child, who eventually died of a brain tumor. One might ask why the author chose to work in this childhood experience into a novel about the ugliness and cruelty of war. She is quite a contrast to the stories of killing, death, and mental struggles associated with Vietnam, however she collaborates nicely with story's main theme. Tim O'Brien brings in the character of Linda to compare her to the young men of the Alpha Company, to juxtapose the events of Linda's death with the deaths in war, and to further the theme of keeping the deceased alive through stories and memories.While on the surface Linda may seem totally unrelated to the soldiers in Vietnam, she actually has more in common with them than meets the eye. Both parties are very young and are dealing with events that are very harsh and challenging, especially at such a young age. Linda is struggling with a brain tumor, which ultimately kills her, while the men of Alpha Company are struggling with their fears and gruesome memories of the war that affect each in different ways. They are equally naïve, inexperienced, and uncertain about their situations. Since she is so young, Linda does not know how severe her medical condition is and does not understand why she is going to die, as the young men in the war are not sure why they had to leave home to fight a war with no immediate cause.As the title implies, they both carry things that represent their burdens, fears, and memories. These items act as a form of protection or distraction for them during their tough times. Some of the men in Vietnam carry comic books or photos to distract them from a cruel war. Others carry items of superstition, like Henry Dobbins' stockings that he wears for good luck. For Linda, her red cap is her prized possession, which not only serves as protection to shield her balding head, but also represents her mental strength throughout her last few months of life. She still goes to school during her treatment and wears her red cap everyday even in class and she is teased about it. At recess in the playground, a kid named Nick Veenhof sneaks up behind her and almost yanks off her cap, but then scurries away before he can. As a child, Tim O'Brien recalls, "naturally I wanted to do something about it, but it just wasn't possible. I had my reputation to think about. I had my pride" (233). He feels great respect for Linda and admires her courage. Although at the time he does not know she is going to die, he still wants to protect her from the cruelty of the other children. A similar situation happens during his time in Vietnam.When coming across dead corpses, many of the soldiers would mock the lifeless bodies as a way to deal with the tragedy of death. Shaking hands and giving high fives adds humor to a very grime situation, though Tim O'Brien remembers how he does not participate...

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