The Things They Carried is a riveting book in which Vietnam War veteran Tim O"Brien abstractly writes of his experiences in the war. However, unlike many other historical books that focus on war, O"Brien captures not only his fellow soldiers actions and outward feelings, but transgresses into a realm of private thoughts, fears and worries. The Things They Carried is not only a book about fighting and brotherhood, but a book about the internal secrets and conflicts of men at war.
The book opens with a look into the mind of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, a man deeply in love with a quiet, poetic girl named Martha. A girl who has no love for him. As Jimmy Cross continues to march with his men across Vietnam, he becomes more and more lost in his imaginary world where Martha is his wife. When amidst his daydreaming one of his men, the dope-smoking Ted Lavender is shot and killed, Jimmy Cross takes the blame upon himself. Forever, he carries with him the guilt of a man's death. Forever he hates Martha for what she has done.
Jimmy Cross" change in character is just the beginning of The Things They Carried. As the book continues to document what happened to the men O"Brien fought alongside, the reader continues to notice the peculiar way men change when faced with extremes. O"Brien's The Things They Carried probes deeply into the human conscience and presents it in such a way that it stirs the reader.
In one chapter O"Brien remembers a man he killed. The only man he killed in Vietnam. The book goes on to vividly describe the way the dead man looked, and then to vividly describe all the feelings O"Brien had. The raging war in himself; warrior versus killer. His fellow soldiers try to comfort him, but twenty years later, there is still a fight going on inside him. One that forces him to revisit Vietnam, or, more specifically, the place where he killed the man, to finally achieve peace.
Throughout the rest of the book, O"Brien continues to extract emotions from the men he marched alongside.