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The Things They Caried by Tim O’Brien Analysis

The novel “The Things They Carried” is written by Tim O’Brien and is a beautiful explanation of the tragedies of War and the thoughts that go on in the mind of a soldier when he is at the battlefront. The very start of the chapter has many hidden motives and themes that contribute to the later chapters’ main storyline. The chapter begins by explaining the different characters that Lieutenant Jimmy Cross has encountered.

The first one is a girl named Martha whom Lieutenant Jimmy Cross extremely leaves. Jimmy is also seen carrying her letters and reading and rereading them again because he is desperate to gain Martha’s love but according to the author, Martha doesn’t love him back. He consistently worries about her acceptance of him and dreams of marrying her. He is also seen worrying about whether or not she is a virgin, which explains a lot about Maratha’s feelings for the guy.

The writer then goes ahead and enlists a number of things that each of the characters in the story carries. These elements are important since each of these will play a crucial role in the later parts of the study. For instance, Ted Lavender carries a poncho and tranquilizer pills while Cuba carries a hunting hatchet. Mitchell Sanders is seen carrying the platoon’s radio, and Henry Dobbins is seen carrying a machine gun. The main character of the story, Jimmy, is seen carrying nothing but remorse and a burden on his chest.

As the name of the story “The Things They Carried” implies that each member of the story would have one thing or another as per his rule the characters are dramatically seen with a number of things like wristwatches, mosquito repellents, morphine, tranquilizers, heat tabs and chewing gum, etc. However, the narrator asserts that the set of emotional cargo carried by each Soldier like love, fear, grief, anger confusion, and terror (even though carried by each soldier) remain unseen by everyone. The soldiers continue to hide their emotions since they are in a war zone and they need strength to survive so they rely on these emotions but they never let them boil up or surface on the top. The narrator notes hair that each man is haunted by the ghosts of his past or the sheer fear of being killed in war but they all carry it in one form or another.

The narrator then talks about the unfortunate death of one of the fellow soldier men named Ted Lavender. Set Lavender was a platoon member who was shot to death in front of all the soldiers outside the village of Than Khe. Since Ted carried a poncho with him all the time, he was wrapped in the same poncho as the soldiers carried him back to their camp. His death ascertained the fears of most of the soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War and most of them were seen reminiscing their past to find some sort of comfort in their memories. Particularly, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was visited by the ghost of his lover Martha as when he thought of her smooth and beautiful face the rush of fear he felt due to the death of a fellow soldier instantly subsided. He then constantly thought of his lover to let go of the grief and sorrow he felt at the death of his friend.

As the helicopter arrived to carry the dead body of his friend Ted, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was instilled with grief at such a great level that he led all his fellow men into the village where his friend was killed. They all avenged his murder by burning the village setting fire to all the parts and shooting the farm animals. Grief at their friend’s murder forced them all to destroy the whole town. As they returned, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was seen taking the hatchet and digging a grave in the ground. The writer guessed that the grave somehow was for his friend who had passed away or his lover Martha, whom he now knew he would never be able to see since he would soon become a victim of the atrocities of War. The grave, hence, suggests he is showing his love and affection for Martha, who never loved him back.


O’brien, Tim. The things they carried. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.



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