“The Things They Carried”
“The Things They Carried” tells about the side of war that you don’t read about in history books. The author, Tim O’Brien, does outline with great detail what the soldiers in this specific battalion carried, but in a way that you don’t normally read or see. O’Brien does list off the necessity items (can opener, pocket knife, mosquito repellant, etc.) but he also tells what each individual soldier carries because they are just that, individuals. No two have all the same items for the same reasons, each mans pack and artillery is tailored to suit his individual needs.
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It’s this detail that helps this story stand out from the history books. We are told why each man carries certain things and this helps us to connect with the men on a personal level. We follow as Cross looks for comfort in the letters from Martha and eventually realizes that he is searching for something that probably isn’t there and destroys them along with the photographs of her.
What I take away from this story is that war is very impersonal and at the same time very individualized. Each man contributes something different and has his own habits, but in the grand scheme his individualism means nothing. He is just another body. If a man gets too caught up in his daydreams and thoughts he loses focus and puts others in danger. Lieutenant Cross feels responsible for the death of Lavender because he was not focused on what he was doing at the time that he was shot. Because of the guilt he realizes that he must not get caught up in the fantasies of he and Martha being together or he will continue to put men in danger. He burns the letters and photographs and becomes “determined to perform his duties firmly and without negligence.”
I enjoyed this story and the very in depth, personal look it gives of a war the many believed to be fought in vein. The main character is well developed for a story that is less than fifteen pages long. Lieutenant Cross goes through a major change and comes out a different, perhaps better soldier for it.