Strength in The Things They Carried
Everybody has to deal with adversity at some point in their lives. The adversity that they go through varies from person to person. For First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, he had to make it through the Vietnam War alive. In the short story, "The Things They Carried," where Cross draws his strength from is somewhat unclear. He seems strong at the beginning of the story, but then again, he also seems to be gaining strength towards the end of the story. This paper shows two different points of view. It discusses whether Jimmy Cross is a stronger person at the beginning of the story or at the end of the story.
One opinion is that First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is stronger before he burns the pictures of Martha. His strength comes from his connections to the outside world. Martha is his link to life away from the war. This is why it is important that "Martha never mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself. She wasn't involved" (O'Brien 403-404). She symbolizes all that he left behind, and all that he hopes to someday return to: innocence, comfort, love, and hope. These hopes and dreams are the things that keep him sane; they keep him more human and less of a war machine. He shows his strength by attaching himself to these things and by keeping himself partly detached from the violence surrounding him. He has the amazing ability to admit to himself that, "he was just a kid at war, in love. He was twenty-two years old. He couldn't help it" (397). By having the strength to see this reality, he fights against war's power to consume a person's whole identity.
However, by deciding that, "henceforth, when he thought about Martha, it would be only to think that she belonged elsewhere," he lets go of life outside the war (404). This does not make him stronger; instead, he becomes another victim of the pain of war. By making this decision, he shows weakness. As a result of giving up the thing that helps him deal with pain, he becomes harsher and more controlling. Essentially, he loses his admirable qualities. He becomes more and more a product of war. The kindness and sensitivity that once made him so honorable suddenly disappears. He makes life harder for his men. "Their days would seem longer and their loads heavier" (404). He becomes a leader who resembles the harshness of war. By being harder on his men, he isn't helping the situation. They need someone who is strong enough to pull them through the devastation and confusion they are being forced to deal with. They need the strength that he used to have. This point of view shows Cross being stronger at the beginning because he is recognizing that he has something...