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"The Weight Of The Things Carried" Book: "The Things They Carried" Author: Tim O'brien

1168 words - 5 pages

In the book titled, The Things They Carried, the author, Tim O' Brien, depicts a world where traumatic memories and crushing emotional baggage are far heavier than any combat pack or assortment of weapons that has ever burdened the back of a soldier. The author, O'Brien, explores the physical and emotional burdens that the soldiers of the Vietnam War "hump" or carry with them. The author portrays the things the soldiers carry throughout the story as both literally tangible items and figuratively intangible burdens. The reader is able to learn a great deal about the soldiers and their character by analyzing the things they carry during war. However, the story is not so much about the physical things the men of Alpha Company carry, but rather the emotional burdens that are not easily left behind. The image of carrying is conveyed through the weight of the physical items the soldiers "humped", and through the metaphysical burdens of: escaping reality, fear, grief, love, and the responsibility for one another.The thirteen troops of the Alpha Company and their Lt. Jimmy Cross are portrayal of young American soldiers that bear the burden of the physical and metaphysical things they carry or "hump" during the Vietnam War. And"among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water" (O'Brien 2).These items can make the soldier's pack weigh up to twenty pounds, along with other necessary items for protection. It was SOP, or standard operating procedure, for all soldiers to wear jungle boots weighing 2.1 pounds, a steel helmet weighing 5 pounds, and a nylon covered jacket weighing 6.7 pounds. In addition to the weight of their gear, they still had to lug around guns, extra ammunition, plus special supplies depending on their current mission. It is common for soldiers to carry up to half their weight in what they consider necessary supplies. All of these items serve as protection but also embody the weight of what the soldiers physically had to hump in order to survive.Along with the weight of the procedural items, every soldier carries his own personal items, which convey the image of carrying in a figurative sense. The personal items the soldiers carry symbolize a means of escape from reality. For example: Henry Dobbins carries extra rations of peaches in heavy syrup to eat with pound cake, which exemplify his escape back to his mother's kitchen. Ted Lavender carries tranquilizers, and marijuana to escape the pain and injury of the war. Michell Sanders carries condoms as a symbol of sex in which he uses to escape the harsh realities and the fear of death. Norman Bowker carries a diary as his outlet to purge himself of the horror that surrounds him. Rat Kiley escapes war through his imagination by carrying...

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