1 February 2013
The Burden In The Things They Carried
“The Things They Carried”, a short story written by Tim O’Brien, displays an unfolding sequence of events that strongly examines the physicical, psychological, and emotional damage the soldiers beared during the Vietnam War. Not only did they carry the weapons needed for battle, but they carried personal items to get them through the rough times. The story might seem like a never-ending list of the physical belongings the soldiers are hauling, but in actuality it is about what they are mentally carrying. They carried things you cannot see but rather feel, such as guilt, shame, fear, memories, heartbreak, and stress. O’Brien goes beyond the repulsion of the Vietnam War to scrutinize the nature of bravery and despair. The men’s physical loads were a burden that served to take their minds off of more personal issues, such as their own integrity. First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was the leader of the pack. He was responsible for their actions, and lives. He carried everything but reliability. There was one person keeping him from doing his duties during the war. Her name was Martha; she was a junior in college. He felt strong feelings for her but she did not feel the same. “To carry something was to “hump” it, as when Lieutenant Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps. In its intransitive form, “to hump” meant “to walk,” or “to march,” but it implied burdens far beyond the intransitive (390). Martha was his burden, his means of escape. He knew in the back of his mind that they could never be but he never lost hope. Jimmy Cross carried Martha with him everywhere he went, which eventually turned out to be a very bad thing. She was a way for him to escape the reality of the horrid scenes going on around him. A dangerous distraction she was, causing him to daydream and not pay attention and be a good leader for his crew. “He felt shame....
Cited: O 'Brien, Tim. "The Things They Carried." Compact Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. 8th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. 388-400. Print.
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