Things They Carried Is Known As The Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 3 Subject: Literature Type: Essay Paper: #75777121 Related Topics: Things They Carried, Things Fall Apart, Vietnam, Character Analysis
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Things They Carried is known as the novel and also as a book containing stories which are interrelated to each other. Written by Tim O'Brien, the book is considered to be a book representing complex ideas and perspectives hence presenting a complex variety of literary cultures. The writer puts forward in front of his readers a very interesting memoir in front of his readers and at the same time also presents writers biography wrapped in one. He makes the reading experience interesting by creating a fictional hero who adopts the writers name and narrates the story. To completely understand and appreciate this literary masterpiece it is important to understand that even though the events in the book might be true but it still stands as an aspiration hence it is a pure work of fiction rather than a non-fictional, historic account of events.

The hero or the story narrator in the book is "Tim O'Brien" who happens to be a Vietnam war veteran and an aspiring middle ages writer. The most constant theme of the story is that O'Brien tries to remember and re create the events that took place in the past especially his time in the army and his service in the Vietnamese war. During this process he also tries to make sense of these memories and asks many important questions regarding them (Calloway, 1995).

He accomplishes this through a completely fascinating series of auto-biographies series of stories which are semi-linked with each other, in these stories "O'Brien" tries to put light on the characters he served with in the war. He describes the men individually for instance he describes this one Lt. Jimmy Cross who is ill experienced not fully equipped and is made the leader of the Alpha Company. Years after the war, the two spent an afternoon together remembering their friends and those who were killed (Herzog, 1992).

Character Sketch

At the beginning of the book, Jimmy Cross is shown as a lieutenant who is distracted because of his attraction to a girl back home while he is at war in Vietnam, it gets worse enough for it to cloud his leadership skills with his men. Its gets bad enough for him to allow his men to smoke, drugs, drop important things during long marches and make jokes at each others expenses in very carefree manner. His irresponsible attitude towards the war and his men comes to a halt when one of his close men Ted Lavender is shot dead during a cross fire (Bonn 1994).

Cross's Reaction to Lavender's Death

When Ted is shot dead, cross acts the way he realizes is the right manner and takes his felloe man's death's responsibility upon himself. He does so because he is the lead commander of his unit and takes full responsibility of his death. When Lavender dies Jimmy falls apart and is emotionally overwhelmed.

He tried not to cry. With his entrenching tool, which weighed five pounds, he began digging a hole in the earth.

He felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war.

All he could do was dig. He used his entrenching tool like an ax, slashing, feeling both love and hate, and then later, when it was full dark, he sat at the bottom of his foxhole and wept. (O'Brien 16-17)

In the story Jimmy Cross's character is a typical one who cannot handle responsibility and what unique effects being in a...


The only reason he joined the officers training corps was being he had nothing else better to do with his life and also because his friends were doing it as well. Since in actual he doesn't really care about the war and does not want to be in a leading position. Hence when he is given the responsibility to lead several men on the fire front of the war he is unsure of how to deal with the responsibility and is not sure what exactly his job his (Bates, 1987).

Cross's guilt is apparent every time one of his men dies in cross fire but it is most obvious in the case of his close friend Ted Lavender. He blames himself to be responsible for his ted since according to him most of the time he was preoccupied with his attraction to Martha who always sends him photographs of how stuff is back home and writes letters which do not mention the war to him. His day dreaming comes to an end when his fellow men starts to get killed in cross fires especially when Ted dies, he comes to the conclusion that he prefers someone who is not even close to him over his own men. The fact that we see later in the book that cross confesses to O'Brien years later about his guilt still lingering over Lavenders death proves how deeply moved he was with the loss. In the book we can also see Jimmy Cross as a Christ figure, this is apparent from his inexplicable atrocity; certain individuals assume the position of a group's or their own savior. Such men suffer so that others don't have to bear the brunt of the guilt and confusion. In a very strange way Cross is not only linked with Christ in a theoretical manner as in they both share the same initials and also the idea of cross, but also it is obvious from the nature of their roles, just like Christ suffered the pain for his men, Cross also suffered the guilt and pain for his units men who were being shot (Harris, 1990).

Character Analysis

The character analysis for Lt. Cross involves both realistic or practical elements as well as theoretical ones. In the book we see him functioning as a complete symbol of war, especially in the context of meaningful foundations. Just like in warfare Cross is also described as a character with a lack of distinct rationale. In theory Lt. Cross as the leader of the Alpha unit should be that of a head strong leader who should be motivated and focused enough to provide his troops with strong and clear commands on how to gain advantage over the enemy. However in case of the Vietnam war it becomes impossible for Cross to gain that kind of leadership for his unit because the object or the end result of the war itself is confusing and not thoroughly defines. Similar to battles and operations that constituted the war; Cross fails to demonstrate the clear ability to fulfill his role (Coffey, 1990).

Cross is portrayed as a weak leader because the traditional training he had received is contrast with what he experiences in the war. His training taught him all about the stuff which went that high on priorities when it came to war tactics for instance, marching in line, reading a map, keeping the guns clean, his training also included following the already decided procedures and the basic operating system which was standard, however the situation in Vietnam demanded a more on the spot thinking plan with more focus on gaining grounds with the enemy rather than marching in lines and keeping ones guns clean. In theory he was the leader of the Alpha Company but in practical implementation was never a true member of it, his tactic if separating himself from his men so that his authority could be established never worked. He is shown in a constant battle with himself where he knows that he is the leader of his…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bonn, Maria S., "Can Stories Save Us? Tim O'Brien and the Efficacy of the Text," in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 36, No. 1, Fall, 1994, pp. 2-14.

Coffey, Michael, An Interview with Tim O'Brien in Publishers Weekly, February 16, 1990.

Harris, Robert R., "Too Embarrassed Not to Kill: A review of The Things They Carried," in New York Times Book Review, March 11, 1990, p. 8.

Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History, New York: Viking Press, 1983

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