The Things They Brought
“The Things They Brought” shows guys in the heart of war trying keep some sort of form of their regular lives. The primary character of the story, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, spends a good deal of his time thinking about his love interest back in your home. In fact, the story opens by saying that he “carried letters from a woman named Martha …
They were not enjoy letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack”. Instantly the reader is thrust into this world of war, and what is very important to the males who live it. There are numerous different clichés expressions concerning how one can tell a lot about a man by X or Y (by the way he gowns, by the method he treats his mom, and so on); in this story, we can inform everything at the heart of a male by what he carries with him trekking through the jungles of Vietnam.
Jimmy Cross is a dreamer; he invests his time daydreaming about developing a life with a lady who hasn’t actually revealed the exact same sort of interest in him, and who preserves a great deal of psychological distance from him. However it is this idea of a “typical” life, a life in which he can concentrate on marital relationship and children and simply life, a life he hopes to go back to after the war. The idea of Martha, as well as her letters, serves as a beacon of normalcy for him, and it is what he feels he should hold on to for his own survival.
Jimmy eventually ends up shunning his own requirement of maintaining some sort of focus on life outside of the war because he feels his own relentless fantasizing was the reason for another soldier’s death; in a terrific symbolic gesture, he burns her letters and her images, turning his back on any hope he clung to of a normal life and swearing to be the solider he failed to be: “Henceforth, when he thought about Martha, it would only be to think that she belonged somewhere else. He would close down the visions. This was not Mount Sebastian, it was another world … a place where males died due to the fact that of negligence and gross stupidity … He was not determined to perform his responsibilities firmly and without negligence”.
Jimmy is so shaken by the experience of experiencing among his males’s death that it forces him to become a different person– in a sense, to adapt, and to end up being hard and cold. As much as his daydreaming was for his own survival before, his solidified personality after the death of Ted Lavender is as well.
The use of Ted Lavender’s name and story is the dominant style throughout the story. O’Brien uses Lavender’s awful demise as a continuous pointer of the horrors of war. Throughout the entire story, in the middle of what might seem to be a casual description of various items being “humped” by the men, O’Brien drops Lavender’s name connected to a tip of how he was shot.
This occurs towards the beginning, when the narrator is describing the various things the males brought: “Ted Lavender, who was frightened, brought tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April”. His name is raised repeatedly throughout with this exact same type of puzzling suggestion of his death.
When referring to how everybody needed to bring a poncho, it is noted that it “weighed almost 2 pounds, however it was worth every ounce. In April, for instance, when Ted Lavender was shot, they used his poncho to wrap him up …”. This name-dropping of Ted Lavender throughout the story is an efficient tool that O’Brien utilizes the highlight the point that this male passed away.
The deeper-lying message behind the use of Lavender’s demise as a running metaphor is that individuals die in war; it is terrifying; these males are kids (with the Lieutenant being a mere 22 years old) and they’re frightened and they wish to go house, and these things they carry they keep due to the fact that it makes them feel safe and advises them a little of home.
There is emphasis in the story about how their consistent marching and their humping of limitless products from village to town appeared meaningless to them– as meaningless as Ted Lavender’s life ending. “By daytime they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, however it was not fight, it was just the endless march, village to town, without function, absolutely nothing won or lost … They had no sense of technique or objective. They browsed villages without understanding what to look for …”.
These men, who have to hump a terrific lots of variety of items (of both the personal and the protective nature) from one location to the beside the next, are being shipped off to war without a clear sense of what it is they’re doing there and are compromising their lives without really comprehending what their lives are being sacrificed for.
They do what they are told because they are told to do it, and because they are too scared not to: “Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had actually brought them to the war in the very first location, nothing positive, no dreams of magnificence or honor, simply to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to pass away of embarrassment”. These young men were craving little other factor that they knew of besides that they felt that they needed to.
O’Brien’s message throughout this story is clear: war is terrifying. O’Brien uses the lists of what they had to carry with them to highlight the heavy burden each of them had to hump around everywhere they went, with the underlying style that the things they carried physically were absolutely nothing in contrast to the things they each brought around with them emotionally.
All of them were scared for their lives; all of them wanted to go home. Much of their individual valuables were things that would remind them of house, that would perhaps permit them to get away for short moments (like Jimmy Cross finished with Martha’s letters) and fantasize about the lives they could and did have outside of this war, advising them that there is still another world outside of Vietnam. A lot of the men brought with them the hope of a safe return; much more brought with them the fear that there would not be one for them.
O’Brien is extremely cautious to enable these characters’ lives (and one death) promote themselves. He utilizes their example of their experience in war to promote a greater number of young men across the nation who had actually been delivered off to Vietnam to die without understanding why. Part of O’Brien’s message is that these experiences– the hopes, the worries, the day-to-day fear and the battle to combat it– are universal, and can universally be used to anybody who has been through war.
The bottom line is that war is hell, it is frightening, and no amount of pride or magnificence can change that, and whether the war was being fought for the “ideal” factors (a big debate during the Vietnam dispute) couldn’t alter that either. O’Brien is mostly worried about the pointlessness of all of it, and he prospers in making his point effectively by using these very poignant lists of things the men carried and for what reasons to hammer his point house.
He has the ability to do so without being preachy or pedantic; the story is so easy that the message ends up being simply as easy. Whether you support war, you can not reject that the guys combating it are forced to endure things that the rest of us would rather not know about. We would rather remain in our self-deluded bubble in which we understand war only as far as its being for flexibility, for honor, for the greater good … we would rather be spared the understanding of the blood loss and the body counts. Not to point out the fear. We would rather not hear the story of the Ted Lavenders, but O’Brien insists that we have to.
O’Brien, Tim. “The Important Things They Carried.” (1986 )