An Analysis of "The Things They Carried".
In Tim O"Brien's short story "The Things They Carried" he describes a group of American soldiers marching through Vietnam. The soldiers carried items that were basic "necessities" for survival during this terrible time in their lives. The men tried to take comfort in these personal objects and memories while they were away from home. The love struck narrator takes the reader along during the conflict to see the importance of these everyday tangible, intangible and regrettable items that each soldier must carry.
Throughout the story, Tim O"Brien switches between descriptions of the items the soldiers "humped" (O"Brien 961) and narrative insight. This alternating seems to bring attention to the items without losing sight of the narration. During the descriptive portions of the story, Tim O'Brien is precise in his descriptions, but, at times, simply lists the tangible objects that were carried. "As a first lieutenant and platoon leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45(c) caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds full loaded" (O"Brien 962). The author gives no feeling toward these physical objects, so the reader is left to assume that these objects are basic necessities. Though some of the soldiers carried such things as a bible, candy and even Kool-aid packets. .
The emotional burdens that the soldiers seemed to carry were a lot heavier than their military supplies. These were "things men carried inside" (O"Brien 972), so they were much harder to bear throughout the conflict. Lt. Jimmy Cross had to rely on his memories and fantasies of Martha to get him through this frightening ordeal and he "humped" "two photographs of Martha because he loved her so much" (O"Brien 961). Though, at one point in the story Jimmy Cross "burned Martha's letters" (O"Brien 971) to try and relieve the load because he felt that it was an unattainable fantasy as well.