In "The Things They Carried", author Tim O"Brien reveals to the reader a world where searing memories and crushing emotional baggage are far heavier than any combat pack or assortment of weapons that has ever burdened the back of a foot soldier. This is a story not so much about the things the men of Alpha Company carried, but rather the burdens that they could not put down. O"Brien subtly explains how the men carry their thoughts, memories and "unweighed fear".
Throughout the story, O"Brien gives long, tedious, monotonous and utterly boring lists of the things the men carried. "The things they carried were largely determined by necessity", but each man's necessities were different. All of the men carried very heavy loads to begin with, and added to these loads things that seemingly lightened their burdens. O"Brien's point behind all this listing is to show the reader just how much physical weight these men carried and how slow and tedious the war in which they fought was. "They moved like mules it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost.".
While the men carried many physical objects, the thoughts and fears and memories they carried inside of them were far heavier. One clear example of this is the life and death of Ted Lavender. " When he was shot and killed outside of Than Khe, and he went down under an exceptional burden, more than twenty pounds of ammunition, plus the flak jacket and helmet and rations and water and toilet paper and tranquilizers and all the rest, plus the unweighed fear. He was dead weight." With the death of Ted Lavender, O"Brien begins to develop the core of this story: How the men of Alpha Company dealt with the things they carried inside.
After Lavender was killed, he was carried away by a helicopter. No more burdens for him to carry, no more unweighable fear. The men left behind, however, did not have this luxury.