The Things They Carried
This work of art is a war story, with love, tragedy and personal responsibility, giving details of what one carries, survives and ponders during events that take place out of our control. The Thing Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien depicts human beings just like us that don’t get a choice of what happens around us but how to survive with the things we hold dear that help us make it through. It also shares with us the fear, risk and aftermath of the death of one of their men and the personal responsibility the narrator feels as the loss of one of the men under his care.
The setting of the story is integral as it takes place in the village of Than Khe. The war of Vietnam was a tragic, messy war that affected many lives. The setting brings readers to a geographic location that these and countless other men have spent months and years experiencing life and death, tragedy and camaraderie, fear, loss and the ultimate test of character and strength. Without it, the story wouldn’t have the same effect.
The use of vivid, descriptions and imagery of the things each soldier has with him gives the readers a better understanding of what the weight load and burden these men underwent. The author describes to us the necessities of what they carried:
“The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist-watches, dog tags, mosquito repellant, chewing gym, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water.” (626-627)
Not only did they carry these things, but each man had specific things that were special to him. We all have things we hold dear to us, items that bring comfort or a sense of safety. These men were no different. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross describes some of these things, which also tells us a great deal about the person.
“Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practices field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he’d stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April.” (626)
As we learn about these different characters, we see how comic books, condoms, dope, the Bible, foot powder, letters and socks are all the things that bring these men a piece of home. These aren’t the only things they carry. They also have their weapons, protective gear and weather gear from the “steel helmets that weighed 5 pounds and trousers” and the “steel-centered, nylon-covered flak jacket, which weighed 6.7 pounds”, to the “green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat or ground sheet or makeshift tent.” (626) He goes on to describe in...