“The Things They Carried”

            Tim O’Brien wrote a short story, “The Things They Carried” with the main character Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who is 24 years old, and at a war in Vietnam. He carries pictures and letters from Martha whom he loves but feels she doesn’t love him. Martha is an English major at Mount Sebastian. She never mentions in her letters war but rather includes poetry lines (599). The physical distance between them shows that they have different concerns and that they worry about different things. While she is worrying about keeping her grades up, he has to take care of the soldiers’ lives.

            Jimmy Cross and Martha went to see a movie when he touched her knee, she looked at him with sadness which symbolizes a twist the story has (O’Brien 597). Her sad expression is symbolic in the sense that he doesn’t love her as he used to since he accuses the love he feels for her, as an enemy, which attacks and takes soldiers lives away. Her sadness is not only for herself but also for him because now he is going to change his personality to become an uncompassionate, strict leader who pushes his group to the limits.

Cross became distracted on April 16 while they were on a mission in Than Khe to destroy complex tunnels. He was thinking of Martha, of both of them buried alive in the tunnel. He dreamed of her being a virgin, and learning of her intimate secrets. He couldn’t break away from such pleasant thoughts and see if the surrounding area was secure even though it was too quiet which should be something suspicious. As a result of not taking the precautions required, Lavender, one of the soldiers got shot and died (O’Brien 600-601). In Tuan’s chapter, “Intimate Experience of Place” there is an idea brought up by Hannah, “My heart was now darken by grief…My eyes kept looking for him without finding him. I hated all the places where we used to meet, because they could no longer say to me, ‘Look, here he comes’…” (140). This is seen with Cross who feels that as a result of his thoughts wondering off, he caused a death of someone when it could have being prevented. As a result he hates himself and Martha for being the one in his head (O’Brien 602). He is not going to be able to bring that life back to life and therefore must be consciously aware that someone from his own group died, and that it was like if he was the one who pulled the trigger.

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One Response to “The Things They Carried”

  1. kgarcia103 says:

    Wow the symbolization couldn’t have been any better. As you said the idea of Martha as an “enemy” really lies close to what the soldiers are trying to fight. I never saw it that way, as Martha being the enemy. Thoughts of her are potential danger, not only to Cross’ mind but his soldiers as well. Unfortunately so when Ted Lavender died.

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