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The Things They Carried – Tim O’biran Essay, Research Paper

Tim O?Brien?s ?The Things They Carried? is a tale that deals not only with the physical risk of war, but also with the emotional effects it has on the young soldiers. Lt. Jimmy Cross is the designated leader. He has been placed in a position of authority and great responsibility. All of the men in the troop carried various items with them, both physically and emotionally. However, it was Lt. Jimmy Cross who has the largest load to bear. After the death of one of his soldiers, Cross is forced to reexamine his actions and realize the mistakes he has made. Although this man cares for his men, he does not fulfill his responsibilities. Throughout the story, it becomes apparent to the reader that Lt. Jimmy Cross will not be able to forget about Martha, and that he is not an effective military leader.

The things that Lt. Cross carries are different than the rest of the men. He carries memories and mementos of Martha, and these things infatuate him. ?Lieutenant Cross carries two photographs of Martha? (O?Brien 420). These two simple pictures control his mind. The author reveals that ?Cross often wondered who had taken the picture, because he knew she had boyfriends, because he loved her so much, and because he could see the shadow of the picture taker spreading out against the brick wall? (420). The pictures and small gifts from Martha are all that Jimmy can think about, distracting him from the responsibility of protecting his men. It took the tragic death of Lavender to make him realize that he had not fulfilled his duties. ?Lavender was dead. You couldn?t burn the blame? (430). Instead, he burns the photos of Martha. He turns her letters and her congenial gestures into a pile of smoky ashes. He was hoping to find peace and forgiveness form his guilt, but none would come. Even after this bold action that makes the reader believe that Cross is leaving Martha behind, he ?saw Martha?s gray eyes gazing back at him? (430). He will never be able to forget about his obsession with the young woman. He will live the rest of his military career in guilt for his negligence in the death of one of his men.

Although Cross cares about his men, he is not equipped to serve in a position of leadership. The things that he carries keeps him occupied and prevents him from doing his duties. The reader quickly realizes that Jimmy Cross is not a person that should be responsible for the lives of others. During one operation the author reveals, ?His mind wandered. He had difficulty keeping his attention on the war? he would slip away into daydreams, just pretending, walking barefoot along the Jersey shore, with Martha, carrying nothing? (422-423). Any person in the military would want a leader who was focused and committed to protecting the lives of his men. A Lieutenant who ?had difficulty keeping his mind on the war? is clearly a danger to all of those around him. Cross is obviously not a person equipped with the strength to lead men through a war. Any sane person would not want to serve under this man, and Cross himself knew why. ?He had loved Martha more than his men? (426).

O?Brien displays a military leader who will not be able to let go of his love for Martha, and a man that should not be in such a position of responsibility. Lt. Jimmy Cross was entrusted with the lives of many young soldiers, and he let them down. Unfortunately, Cross did not realize the mistakes he was making until it was too late. ?Lavender was now dead, and this was something that he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war? (426).

Tim O?Brien. ?The Things They Carried.? An Introduction to Literature. Addsion Wesley

Longman: The United States of America. 1997. 418-431.


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