The Vietnam War was the first war in history to be broadcast on national television. Due to the increasing popularity of television ownership and the introduction of the nightly news programs such as CBS and NBC, the horrors of war found a place in living rooms across the country. Between 1965 and 1975, nine million people served in the Vietnam War, and of those nine million, 58,156 were killed or declared missing in action ("Vietnam War Statistics."). Of the 58,156 soldiers killed, 11,465 of them were under the age of twenty ("Statistics about the Vietnam War"). After surviving the war, Tim O’Brien and Susan O’Neill wrote short stories and novels including Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”, and Susan O’Neill’s “The Boy from Montana”. By putting audiences in the shoes of the grunts led by Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and the surgical gloves of Agnes Reedy, Tim O’Brien and Susan O’Neill immortalized the struggles experienced by their compatriots and themselves.
“The things they carried” was a short story about Lieutenant Jimmy Cross leading his men through Vietnam. O’Brien describes all of the things carried by the men as a way to symbolize all of the burdens they had. One thing that Jimmy Cross carried was a pack of letters from a girl named Martha who he thought he was in love with (O’Brien). One night Lavender goes out to use the bathroom and on his return, is shot and killed (O'Brien).This causes Cross to realize that his main priority is to lead his men, not swoon over a woman that doesn’t love him (O'Brien).
“The Boy from Montana” is a short story about Agnes Reedy’s account of watching a young boy die in the field hospital she worked at in Vietnam. She says that she thought that all death was the same, but one day she came across a young boy on a gurney with a small bullet hole in his chest and tried to make light conversation about how she “didn’t know anybody that lived in Montana” and the boy responded “Well I do” (O’Neill 5). Then, the surgeon looked at the boy and immediately called for people to help operate on him (O'Neill 5). They then opened his chest cavity and started to transfuse blood (O'Neill 5) when they saw that his heart had been mangled by a bullet (O'Neill 8). After trying to save him, the boy from Montana’s heart stopped beating and they declared him dead (O'Neill 10).
In both “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien and “The Boy from Montana” by Susan O’Neill shared the theme that the main characters were shaken and humbled by witnessing death. In "The Things They Carried", Lieutenant Cross was more occupied with thinking about Martha than leading his men and looking after them like he was supposed to and Ted Lavender died as a consequence (O'Brien). This made him burn the letters from Martha (O'Brien); symbolically erasing her out of his mind so he can accomplish the mission he was assigned. Lavender’s death also reminded him that he was in war and that the lives of him and his men were fragile and constantly...