Spring Book Review In The Things They Carried, Tim Oâ€™Brien tells the tale of not about war, but rather about warâ€™s effect on oneâ€™s mentality.
Ultimately, this novel is built on a foundation of the items that the soldiers of the Vietnam War carried.Whether it was the way Jimmy Cross uses the pebble to escape from his duties as a soldier or when Norman Bowker realizes that courage comes form within, not from receiving a Silver Star; Oâ€™Brien uses baggage as a symbol throughout the book to teach that war does in fact change people.These possessions were not just materialistic, they made up the soldiersâ€™ attributes, made up the soldiersâ€™ persona and made up the soldier. In the beginning of the story we are introduced to Lieutenant Jimmy Cross.Cross is in love with a girl named Martha, and carries letters and pictures she has sent him.He also carries a good-luck pebble he received from Martha, and daydreams about her during their long marches.One day the Lieutenant and his men are marching through Than Kale, Crossâ€™ daydreaming is distracting him as usual, when Ted Lavender is shot in the head and killed.
The men â€œcarriedâ€ Lavender to a helicopter.The emotional baggage they all carried were the things they wanted to lay down the most. Jimmy Cross carried the responsibility for his men and blamed himself for the death of Ted Lavender. Oâ€™Brien is the most complex character in the novel, particularly so because there are three different stages of development. Oâ€™Brien the writer/narrator, â€œOâ€™Brienâ€ the soldier, and Timmy Oâ€™Brien the young boy all possess different thoughts and emotional understandings, each of which are in tension with the others.
Part of Oâ€™Brienâ€™s goal as writer/narrator is to emphasize these tensions. For example, each of these characters grapples differently with the concept of death. Timmy learned at a young age to accept death; soldier â€œOâ€™Brienâ€ attempts to retrieve that lesson to deal with death in war; Oâ€™Brien the writer connects these two approaches, emphasizing the importance of memory to his ultimate understanding of death. This type of connection and understanding of death and loss comes out of the conflict he feels as he attempts to reconcile these different phases of his life. The conflict between the three different â€œOâ€™Brienâ€™sâ€ manifests itself as pain and guilt, two qualities that paradoxically motivate him.
Throughout the entire book, there are several instances on how normal men completely change their persona if placed in an environment, such as war.Mary Anne, the sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, experiences perhaps the most radical form of change in the novel. Marry Anne, the innocent, curious, typical-American girl notorious for her pink sweater, comes over to Vietnam to visit her boyfriend Mark Fossie and is delivered to the medical outpost by way of a supply chopper.When she first arrived in Vietnam, she was just a sweet innocent young lady.She wore cute little clothes, and enjoyed playing in the water and the sand.Initially Mark Fossie and Mary Anne are inseparable, spending days and nights by each otherâ€™s side.However, surrounded by masculinity, Mary Anne quickly changes.
It is this contrast of masculinity and femininity which illustrates how war can change anyone. Mary Anne begins to change from her outgoing, innocent self to a more withdrawn individual. In Tim Oâ€™Brienâ€™s novel, The Things They Carried, numerous themes are illustrated by the author. Through the portrayal of a number of characters, Tim Oâ€™Brien suggests that to adapt to Vietnam is not always more difficult than to revert back to the lives they once knew.The most important of these themes is fear of shame as motivation.
This can clearly be seen when Tim Oâ€™Brien receives his draft notice.Despite a desire to follow his convictions and flee to Canada, he feels he would be embarrassed to refuse to fulfill his patriotic duty and so concedes to fight in Vietnam.â€œItâ€™s a hard thing to explain to somebody who hasnâ€™t felt it, but the presence of death and danger has a way of bringing you fully awake.It makes things vivid.When youâ€™re afraid, really afraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world.
You make close friends.You become part of a tribe and you share the same blood â€“ you give it together, you take it together.â€(Oâ€™Brien, 220)An underlying of this book is the value of friendship.The bond that these men formed with each other in the heat of battle is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced warfare for themselves.It helped them to survive, exclude anyone who was outside their group, and help the men of Alpha Company to cope.