War can take a toll on the mind, body, and soul of a man. In “The things they carried” by Tim O’ Brien, the author sympathetically describes not only the physical weight a soldier must carry while in combat, but also the emotional baggage that also comes along with war. O’ Brien starts out the story by talking about First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who was the leader of his brigade in the Vietnam war. Cross carried around letters from a girl named Martha who he loved dearly, although he didn’t think that the feelings were mutual, “but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack” (O’ Brien 1132). Cross goes on by listing everything that a typical soldier carries in combat including “can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, military payments certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water” etc. (O’ Brien 1132) along with grenades, guns, ammunition, helmets, and military gear. By listing all of these items along with the weight of each item, it really brings to reality how much equipment one man must carry on his back throughout war. By doing this the author is gaining an emotional appeal from the reader, and is building up the sadness and reality of war along the way. Along with the physical things that soldiers carry throughout war, O’ Brien also states some mental and emotional baggage that also comes along with this brutal atmosphere. O’ Brien lists the feelings that these men took along with them into war such as “grief, terror, love, longing” (O’ Brien 1141). One soldier Kiowa, “carried his grandmother’s distrust of the white man” (O’ Brien 1133). Jimmy Cross carried along with him his love for Martha, along with the guilt of getting one of his soldiers killed. Cross wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings, Martha was on his mind constantly, “Ted Lavender...
Cited: O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” Exploring Literature. 5th ed. Frank Madden. New York: Pearson Education, 2009. 1131-1144.
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