The Things They Carried And Its Dual Meaning

878 words - 4 pages

At first glance of the title, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried looks as if it will be about the various amounts of material and equipment that is expected to be carried by soldiers as they carry out their various missions during wartime. O’Brien goes on to describe, in very minute detail, every little piece of equipment. Instead of listing off the weights and amounts of various military equipment, however, he begins with First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s letters from a girl named Martha. As the story progresses, more and more items are described, each with multiple meanings, both physical, and the emotional and mental escapes that they provide to each soldier. Just as the equipment and ...view middle of the document...

I believe that the items are reminiscent to each individual, and show how they each cope with their situation in their own ways. For example, Ted Lavender “carried tranquilizers…six or seven ounces of premium dope…” (179). Ted Lavender is described as being scared, and the tranquilizers and drugs show his method of coping with his jitters. He also carried an excessive amount of ammunition for his M-79 grenade launcher, also due to his fear. After he is killed, he is described as also carrying his “unweighed fear”. Another soldier, Kiowa, goes on to say that Lavender dropped like dead weight, which can be construed as Lavender’s fears to be the cause of his death, or at the very least a contributing factor. Although it can be debated as to who was actually at fault for Lavender’s death, Lt. Cross takes on a new burden, “he blamed himself” (180). Lt. Cross shouldered the weight of Lavender’s death and added it to the things that he carried, with the strain of the events weighing more on his mind than any amount could weigh on his body.
Although more and more equipment, ranging from Kool-Aid packets to radios, is described in great detail, O’Brien consistently returns back to Lt. Cross’s moments with Martha. Even though memories and thoughts do not weigh anything in the physical sense, Lt. Cross knows more and more that his thoughts are weighing him down. Eventually, he gets rid of Martha’s letters as he realizes that she does not belong in...

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