The Things They Carried
In The Things They Carried O'Brien Challenges such Traditional concepts of war stories such as courage, bravery, heroism and masculinity. Though their painful experiences his characters are burdened by fear shame and guilt... the things they must carry for the rest of their lives.
Bold, brave, strong rugged, heroic, laughing in the face of hardship, adversity and even death. These are the qualities and images which our minds conjure up when thinking about the word `soldier'. However Tim O Brien's novel, `The Things They Carried' tells stories of characters and situations where the concepts of the not so stereotypical `soldier' qualities such as terror, alarm, fear, shame guilt and regret are revealed.
The mental burdens that each man carried with him were probably the heaviest of all. They carried with them love, guilt, memories, and fear of death and dismemberment. For example, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried love, guilt, and even though he tried to hide it, fear. Tim O'Brien shows us this in the passage shortly after the death of Ted Lavender, "He pictured Martha's smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men, and now Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and could not stop thinking about her ".
Ted Lavender was obviously hopelessly in love with his wife. His thoughts were gentle and romantic when he pictured her. These were not the thoughts of a rugged, fighting machine.
In the chapter titled `On The Rainy River', Tim O'Brien writes of his very unheroic reaction to receiving a draft notice.
`I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate too everything.'
Compassion, intelligence and goodness are not macho-fighting qualities. He loathed anything to do with camping, roughing in the outdoors and very importantly blood.
O Brien began to dream and plan about running off and escaping to Canada. The border was only a few hundred miles to the north. `I couldn't make up my mind. I feared war, yes but I also feared exile.' Many soldiers feared shame. Fear of shaming themselves and their families and as result has been motivated to do things that they wouldn't have normally chosen to so off their own backs. Instead of going to war for patriotism or dedication to his county, O'Brien goes because his fear of shame and appearing "socially unacceptable" is too great to withstand. O'Brien was suffering from `white feather syndrome', where upon cowards are given upon white feathers for shirking the responsibility for defending their country.
Mateship is without doubt one of the strongest qualities that we associate with soldiers. In the story titled `Friends' we gain an understanding of the close...