The Things They Carried
“The Things They Brought” by Tim O’brien is a short story base on the lives of a group of soldiers during the later years of the war in Vietnam. In this story, O’Brien analyzes the concerns of the soldiers and the impacts that these concerns can have on man in deadly scenarios. The author describes these burdens describing the weight that the soldiers bring. These soldiers need to go trough terrific physical stress however also mental and emotional difficulties that weigh them down immeasurably. The most obvious requirement of the men in the story is the supplies that they bring that will keep them physically alive.
O’Brien makes this clear by listing every detail and accounting for every ounce of food, clothes and weapons. He also develops the importance by listing those items initially in the story. “The things they carried were largely figured out by necessity,” he states on page 2, and he goes on to go over provisions, water, protective clothes, and required sleep gear (2-3). However paradoxically, in this paragraph he likewise consists of items such as Ted Lavender’s “6 or 7 ounces of premium dope,” Rat Kiley’s comic books, and Kiowa’s Bible and his suspect of the white guy (2-3).
This indicates the importance of these things to the guys, no matter how paradoxical that might be, because undoubtedly illicit drugs and comics are not necessary to the commoner for physical survival functions. However this irony recommends the desperation of the scenario that the males faced, a circumstance that might place comics on the exact same level as food. Maybe the vacuum that the men felt drove them to believe that they had to carry all of these additional items to survive, due to the fact that they filled the psychological void that was in their heads, produced by the numbingly dreadful violence of the war.
Another significantly comprehensive requirement of the guys is their military supplies. O’Brien enters into minute detail describing the products that the males used for defense functions. Mostly, he lists the standard weapons for war, the rifles, grenades, the flak coat and helmet (6- 7). He relates the massive problem of weight that Ted Lavender was carrying when he is shot, and how that weight caused him to fall like “a huge sandbag or something– just boom, then down.” (7) The next passage explains all of the extra weapons they carried, ranging from fragmentation grenades to brass knuckles and a feathered hatchet (8-9).
The variety and diversity of the weapons the men carry show the tremendous need to kill, by any possible means. “They brought all that they could bear, and then some, including a quiet awe for the terrible power of the important things they brought.” (9) These concerns– the supplies the males reached remain physically alive– are put on the very same level in regards to description as the things brought that supplied emotional nourishment to the males of the army. O’Brien makes no distinction in regards to writing design in between the conversation of food and weapons and that of all the best appeals and reminders of home.
This is plainly evidenced in the previously pointed out passage on page 4, when the discussion of the males’s practices and animal comforts are put in the very same paragraph as the lists of rations and sleep equipment. Another exceptionally substantial example of psychological sustenance is given in the descriptions of Lieutenant Cross’s accessory to Martha. He brings her letters and reads them day-to-day (1-2), and his love for her, along with the secret of her feelings for him, drives him, keeps him going, and gives his life meaning.
He also carries her pictures (5-6) and the pebble she sends him (9) as consistent reminders of her. However in spite of the minimal weight that these possessions really consist of (the pebble is described as almost weightless on page 9), they show to be huge concerns to Lieutenant Cross. They restore memories, such as the night at the films when Martha would not kiss him back, along with stimulate continuous dreams at random times, such as when Lee Strunk remained in the tunnel. “Lieutenant Cross looked at the tunnel. However he was not there.
He was buried with Martha under the white sand at the Jersey coast. They were pressed together, and the pebble in his mouth was her tongue.” (12) He is not able to remain in touch with the truth before him because the dream world is a lot more manageable, and when Ted Lavender passes away while Cross is thinking of only Martha (13 ), Cross feels that he must also now bring the regret of loving Martha more than his males and enabling among them to pass away. The truth that there was little or nothing that Cross could do to prevent the shooting is apparently irrelevant to Cross, and this puzzles the reader.
Cross’s ideas of Martha had nothing to do with Ted Lavender’s death, and yet Cross feels the obsession to associate them, that makes one marvel what other problems Cross might be carrying internally that could provoke such unneeded regret. Maybe it could be a predisposition to regret, established as an action to the many atrocities of the war with little feeling or believed credited to them, such as the cutting of the VC remains (13-4). But there is likewise some evidence indicating the reality that Cross may be struggling with some mental problems.
Some of his thoughts are very disturbing, such as his desire to connect Martha down on a bed (6) and his fantasy of being squashed with her under the weight of the tunnel (12 ). O’Brien never lists these psychological instabilities as a concrete problem that Cross carries, possibly because there is no standard system to measure the loss of the senses, but it is indicated nevertheless. Yet perhaps the best burden that the men felt the need to bring was the load of dignity. There was an unspoken need to remain hard, to keep composure and not let the fear and the stress and anxiety of a dire situation break through to the surface.
At the most dangerous times, this panic might have revealed, however not for long; “awkwardly, the guys would reassemble themselves, initially in personal, then in groups, ending up being soldiers once again.” (19) They felt the requirement to conceal fear with humor, looking death in the confront with a grin; “they utilized a difficult vocabulary to consist of the horrible softness … as if to encyst and destroy the truth of death itself” (19-20). O’Brien catches the significance of this burden eloquently when he specifies, “they carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the worry of blushing.
Guy eliminated, and died, because they were humiliated not to.” (20-1) This was the fear that weighed the males down the most, because it was concealed, internal. They would just enable themselves to imagine liberty, but not really examine it as a possibility, for those who took the simple escape by injuring themselves were thought of with reject and contempt, despite traces of envy that the men felt inside (21 ). These descriptions offer the impression that these internal problems that the men carried were keeping them alive, were required. Yet due to Ted Lavender’s death, this can barely be the case.
O’Brien relates his death in information once again and once again through Kiowa, who simply can not understand the reality that Lavender was up to the ground with such force and outright certainty. However Ted Lavender, who was frightened … decreased under a remarkable burden, more than 29 pounds of ammunition, plus the flak jacket and helmet and provisions and water and toilet tissue and tranquilizers and all the rest, plus the unweighed worry. He was dead weight. There was no twitching or tumbling … not like the films where the dead man rolls around and does fancy spins. Boom. Down. Absolutely nothing else. (7) Ted Lavender collapsed under the concerns that he brought when he could carry them no more. O’Brien paints an interesting portrait of Ted, an intentionally vague description. He is not even alive within the narrative of the story; certainly, his death is a memory. Yet there are a number of considerable information that are mentioned in the most offhand of methods. For example, he is explained several times (including the passage above) as being “scared,” yet the reader is never ever told precisely what terrifies him.
He is also called the drug provider of the group, with dope and tranquilizers, causing the reader to question why he needed these drugs so terribly. This is especially obvious when O’Brien is listing the “requirements” of the group such as food and water, and Ted’s dope is positioned in the same part of the story (4 ). However besides these unlisted possible concerns, O’Brien goes to terrific pains to note every concern that he carried, and he suggests the unweighed fear, an idea that has actually not yet been analyzed at that point in the story and will not be until almost the end.
Lavender was so extremely strained with the important things that he needed to survive that in the end, those “necessities” triggered his downfall. What, therefore, is O’Brien trying to communicate? The story is imbued with heavy irony, a weight that sends out clashing images to the reader and causes one to take a look at the worlds of need. The whole of the narrative consists of the things and feelings that these males continue a day-to-day basis, things that they bear in order to ensure the survival of their bodies, minds, spirits, and sanities. Yet all of these things contribute to death and damage.
Ted Lavender collapses under the weight of a bullet, as well as all of the supplies on his back and the fear in his heart. Another character who is clearly harming under the weight of the important things he feels he needs to bring is Lieutenant Cross. Cross bears the psychological problem of his love for Martha, a love that he thinks hinders his duties and induces sensations of guilt and responsibility for the death of among his males. In the end, Cross needs to leave the concern of his love behind, as he understands that it is not sustaining him, however ruining him.
The unrequited love is just too much for him to bear, so he burns Martha’s letters and resigns to eliminate the pebble (23-4). This scene is faintly similar to Christ at Gesthemane, for Cross is alone and suffering great anxiety of spirit as his pals sleep. The reader plainly sees the cross of psychological desolation and guilt that rests across his shoulders. With this scene of Cross’s acknowledgment of the crushing burden of his love for Martha, O’Brien exposes the significance of Cross’s name.
Fittingly, Cross is the one to realize the magnitude of the concerns that the men bring. “It was very sad, he believed. The things men carried within. The things guys did or felt they had to do.” (24) His name clearly signifies his own personal burdens that have actually been masked as “essential,” in addition to those of the guys who trudged together with of him. O’Brien takes the idea of need and analyzes it from every angle, finally pertaining to the conclusion that the magnitude of the things that males might think they require can become too much to bear.
His portraits of Ted Lavender and Lieutenant Cross particularly display these intangible burdens: Ted through the vague description of his obviously distressed lifestyle and his own terrible downfall, and Cross through his elaborately explained love and suffering that he feels about Martha. O’Brien makes a declaration when he permits Ted to die while Cross lives, possibly indicating that in order to survive in a desperate scenario, one need to really let go of some of the things that he might think he needs to fill the emptiness in his own life.
He makes us question our own lives and the important things that we may think we need to live, and precisely what holes they may fill. Cross’s insight near the end of the story is profound; it is certainly unfortunate, the things that individuals feel they should bear. Perhaps when one feels the most needy is the time when he should release himself from those excesses that weigh him down and end up being like the soldiers in their dreams; “they gave themselves over to lightness, they were brought, they were purely borne” (22 ).