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The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

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Ruben Otero

Dr. Heather McGrane

ENC 1102


The Hump

In his story The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien weaves his tale around the concept of what a person carries emotionally and physically in the war scenario of the jungles of Vietnam. The story is set in the Vietnam War. It is a story written from the perspective of First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. He is the Infantry Platoon leader. It becomes quickly apparent that he is using his method of accounting for everything carried as a coping mechanism for the stress of this war.

He calculated every physical object in terms of weight and necessity, such as P-38 can openers, pocket knives, and three canteens of water (O'Brien 1132). He went over the total weight of every item that was carried by different soldiers in different positions. In addition to the standard items Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45-caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds fully loaded (1133). He explained and had full knowledge of items carried related to field specialty. The Lieutenant had so much knowledge of what his platoon was carrying he even knew of items carried strictly for superstitious reasons only. The Lieutenant had knowledge of every single item, it's weight and even the weight of things they would obtain along the way not issued by his military. He named these items "catch-as-catch-can" (1135). Some of these included AK-47's, Chi-Coms, and RPGs (1135). It becomes obvious to the reader that this uncanny knowledge of every item and it's weight is the Lieutenants way of coping during this stressful situation. The actual items of what the soldiers carried was not the only thing they carried, they also had emotional weight on them as well.

The Lieutenant went into a description early on in the story of a girl he was in love with named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey (1132). He carried her letters, photos, and a pebble she sent him for luck. Those were the personal objects he carried to keep his sanity and hope of love alive with her. He showed his longing for her by going as far as licking the envelope and even keeping the pebble she once touched in his mouth to feel some kind of connection to her (1135). This was his way of interacting



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