Three symbols that are prevalent in The Things They Carried were the pictures and letters the men had, the Song Tra Bong, and Linda. He uses these symbols to have objects and people represent abstract ideas. .
The pictures and letters symbolized their past and what they left behind them when they went to the war. In the jungle, life is hard. These items help them cope with the troubles there and remind them of what life was like back at home. Jimmy Cross carried pictures and letters from Martha. He remembers the time he spent with her and he often wonders about her. He eventually burned the photos and letters because he believed they were the cause of Ted Lavender's death. That was significant because it symbolizes that he has left his past and is know in the jungle concentrating on the war.
The Song Tra Bong symbolizes the effect that Vietnam has on the people that are there. Marry Anne went to Vietnam and stayed near the river. She was an innocent young girl. She starts going out on missions with Green Berets and she changes into a wild woman. She stops wearing makeup and she cuts her hair. Mark Fossie, her boyfriend, gets her to go back to how she was for a little but she returns to her wild way. She ended up walking up into the mountains one day and never coming back.
Linda symbolizes that life can be brought back from the dead through storytelling and memories. Linda, Tim's first true love, died of a brain tumor when they were in the fifth grade. Tim tells stories about her in the novel and it almost feels like she is still alive. Tim O"Brien also uses the same technique when talking about Ted Lavender and Kiowa. Through storytelling he makes the reader feel like they are not dead.
The letters and pictures, the Song Tra Bong, and Linda were all symbols used to represent ideas of the author Tim O"Brien. The letters and pictures represented their pasts, the Song Tra Bong represented the affect of Vietnam, and Linda was used to represent how storytelling can bring new life and these ideas were all very important.