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Baca 1 Jackie Baca Professor Pocaterra English 1302, Section C4 6 April 2005 The Things They Carried The

soldiers carrying of things is vastly emphasized figuratively and literally. OBrien makes various descriptions by implementing a monotonous list of objects each soldier carried with them. The soldiers carried different objects depending on their amount of fear and taste; each thing had a special meaning and superficially made the process of war easier for them. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried things that reminded him of a girl named Martha, whom he supposedly loved. They all carried equipment and ammunition, some carried drugs, diseases, comic books and irrelevant things such as their girlfriends underwear. Nonetheless, the theme that OBrien evoked retained a deeper meaning of the visible and the invisible things these soldiers carried. The other things they carried were elusive; these things represented a greater weight on them which haunted their heads and increased the agony of their journey. The great American war chest and the weight of their reputations was some of those things they carried, which significantly accumulated their brutal personal encounters as soldiers at war. As OBrien stated in his story, It was the great American war chest-the fruits of science, the smokestacks, the canneries, the arsenals at Hartford, the Minnesota forests, the machine shops, the vast fields of corn and wheat-they carried like freight trains; they carried it on their backs and shoulders... (par.25), the things you could only experience while fighting in the Vietnam War. When they left home they never thought things would turn out the way they did; they were too young to know of the consequences. Before they got there they were willing to fight a

Baca 2 war, but once they got there they realized things were quite different from what they had imagined. On the path they traveled while at war, they left many things behind, many they did not really need and others they did not feel like carrying anymore. Nevertheless, they were eternally bound to carrying their grief terror, love longing, and shameful memories (par.37), they wished to liberate from. As it is mentioned by OBrien, They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture(par.37), those burdens were simply inescapable. The experiences they lived in war were compelled to them on a psychological level, and affected them in a way they had never anticipated. There was clearly no joy in killing or having the doubt of being alive from one moment to the next. The character of Jimmy Cross faced an internal conflict where he intensely fought against the guilt that came from focusing too much on his unexplained love for Martha, hence being responsible for the death of Ted lavender; one of his men. Throughout the story the character of Jimmy undergoes a spiritual transformation. He transcends from living in an imaginative world of love, into reality, where he faced the war and his duty as a lieutenant; No, more fantasies, he told to himself (par.44). But as every soldier did, he faced the false hope of returning home one day as the same Jimmy Cross that once existed. They ultimately wanted to leave everything behind and go back home; but this was not an accessible possibility. If they were to go home, it would never be the same; they were permanently bound to a different kind of life. Their only distraction was a fantasy where they would go home on a silver bird; but in reality there was no way of breaking out of this battle. Their youthfulness and innocence only left them with getting by, with jokes and letting their minds fly into imagination. Through the process of imagination they reached a superficial state

Baca 3 of happiness, but when their fantasy was interrupted, once again they faced the cruelty of war. The jumbo jets, they imagined taking them home over the mountains, oceans and over America transcended and become a silver freedom bird which flied off the edge of the earth and made it completely an illusion. This silver bird might have taken them home, but never would it free them of their burdens. It was an illusion OBrien described as follows, It was flight, a kind of fleeing, a kind of falling, falling higher and higher, spinning off the edge of the earth and beyond the sun and through the vast, silent vacuum where there were no burdens, and where everything weighed exactly nothing (par.39). This flight was impossible because the weight of the burdens they carried were inescapable and unavoidable. They dreamed of being in a state of nakedness, where there was no more weight on them. These dreams helped them eliminate the possibility of failing and allowed them to triumph over difficult tasks in order to face their fears. However, imagination could not surpass reality and to leave everything behind was not going to happen through a fantasy of a silver freedom bird that only existed in their minds. This is the story of a war but more in particular a story of a group of young soldiers who had to leave home in order to fight a war, with no prior knowledge of the implications. They were too young to know and the cost of it was getting hurt on a deeper psychological level. Just as when Robin Blyn referred to the novel, The Things They Carried in his critical essay, The positive spin that underlies the war story as a genre emerges only as a bankrupt fantasy (190). The soldiers were clueless of the life altering decisions they were to face and the guilt they were boomed to carry for the rest of their lives. As according to TimObrien himself on an interview with Patrick Hicks, he explains In a war, youre up against not just your own morality, but youre up against lifetime of memory. Wars dont end when you sign a treaty. They go on and on in memory (38). The theme of carrying goes so far as to not only were the soldiers not carrying

Baca 4 their clothes, but then they still were bound to carrying themselves. They had to continue on their journey and keep their heads up as to what lied before them, and if one of them were to fall, they also had to carry each other, dead or alive. There was no turning back and what was left for them was to just continue on their repetitive journey where there was nothing left to say than, carry on (par.47).

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Works Cited Blyn, Robin. OBriens The Things They Carried. Explicator 61.3(2003): 189-191. Hicks, Patrick. Tim OBrien: The Progressive Interview. The Progressive Jul. 2004: 37-40. OBrien, Tim. The Things They Carrie. Literature, Reading, Reacting, writing. 4th ed. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Boston: Thomson, 2001: 280-294.

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