The Importance of Linda in "The Things They Carried"

Essay by slemaCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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In the last chapter entitled "The Lives of the Dead", Tim O'Brien introduces Linda, a nine-year-old girl he claims he was in love with as a child, who eventually died of a brain tumor. One might ask why the author chose to work in this childhood experience into a novel about the ugliness and cruelty of war. She is quite a contrast to the stories of killing, death, and mental struggles associated with Vietnam, however she collaborates nicely with story's main theme. Tim O'Brien brings in the character of Linda to compare her to the young men of the Alpha Company, to juxtapose the events of Linda's death with the deaths in war, and to further the theme of keeping the deceased alive through stories and memories.

While on the surface Linda may seem totally unrelated to the soldiers in Vietnam, she actually has more in common with them than meets the eye.

Both parties are very young and are dealing with events that are very harsh and challenging, especially at such a young age. Linda is struggling with a brain tumor, which ultimately kills her, while the men of Alpha Company are struggling with their fears and gruesome memories of the war that affect each in different ways. They are equally naïve, inexperienced, and uncertain about their situations. Since she is so young, Linda does not know how severe her medical condition is and does not understand why she is going to die, as the young men in the war are not sure why they had to leave home to fight a war with no immediate cause.

As the title implies, they both carry things that represent their burdens, fears, and memories. These items act as a form of protection or distraction for them during their tough...