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The Burden of Emotion in The Things They Carried

            " Seneca, a Roman philosopher and dramatist, expresses that "Worse than war is the fear of war." Through this description of war, Seneca distinguishes the physical aspect of war and the emotional or psychological aspect. He also expounds that the emotional side dominates the physical. Through the sands of time, this idea has remained intact. Tim O'Brien, author of "The Things They Carried," voices the idea that the mental burdens outweigh the physical agony that those in war must carry: "They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight" (258). O'Brien argues that fear, longing, responsibility, and uncertainty that the soldiers experience far outweigh the physical torture that they must endure in order to stay alive, burdens that are lightened only a little by the hope of returning home.
             The mental burden that probably weighs the most on the hearts of the men is fear. This fear comes from many sources. The men are constantly haunted by the fear that they may die. Ted Lavender's death and how the men react to it show its impact on the soldiers. Kiowa expresses the sense of weight that the threat of death has on the men when he describes Lavender's death: "Boom down, he said. Like cement" (250). Lavender's death is described as being like stone, something massive and heavy. The death of Lavender is repeated several times throughout the story. The repetition is used in order to show the fear in the men. This scene constantly goes through their head as they fearfully await their fate. This lurking of fate, in their minds, serves as emotional baggage that the men must sustain. The soldiers also carry "the soldier's greatest fear, which [is] the fear of blushing" (258). The men's concern for their reputation is one of the heaviest burdens they have to carry.

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