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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 which 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 which attribute to the main storyline in the later chapters. The chapter begins by explaining different characters that the soldier named Lieutenant Jimmy cross comes across. The first one is a girl named Martha who is extremely left by Lieutenant Jimmy cross. 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 is consistently worried 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 enlist 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. Whereas Mitchell Sanders is seen carrying platoon’s radio and Henry Dobbins is seen with a machine gun. The main character of the story Jimmy all the while is seen carrying nothing but remorse and 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 own past or the sheer fear of being killed in war but they all carried it in one form or another.

The narrator then talks about the unfortunate death of one of the fellow soldier man 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 all the time along with him, 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 the Vietnam War and most of them were seeing reminiscing their past in order 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 and 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 that 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 and 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 that passed away or his lover Martha which he now knew he would never be able to see since he would soon become a victim of atrocities of War. The grave hence suggest him wearing 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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