Lieutenant Cross' Change of Heart

Essay by tine981College, UndergraduateA-, April 2005

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Tim O'Brien's short story "The Things They Carried" informs us about the items that were carried by the soldiers of the Vietnam War. Not all of the items were physical, some were emotional: "They carried the emotional baggage of men who might die. ... They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret.... They carried their reputations" (74). The emotional "baggage" often helped the soldiers get through each day and take their minds off the circumstances of the war. However, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross' love for Martha often occupied his thoughts, and this eventually results in Jimmy changing the way he leads the soldiers under his command in war.

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is probably the type of lieutenant that every soldier would like to have. He allows the men to joke around and is generally a nice, laid back guy. He even let the soldiers discard some of the things they carried: "They would often discard things along the route of march" (71).

Although Cross knew that they might need some of the discarded items, he also knew that the amount of things the soldiers carried could add up to a lot of weight: "Mitchell Sanders carried...twenty-six pounds... Rat Kiley carried...nearly twenty pounds. Henry Dobbins carried...twenty-three pounds.... In addition, Dobbins carried between ten and fifteen pounds..." (67). The important details were not what items they carried but how many pounds of stuff the men were

carrying. Jimmy Cross understood how much weight the items could add up to so he let the men get rid of the things that he knew they would be resupplied with that night or the next day: "Purely for comfort, they would throw away rations, blow their Claymores and grenades, no matter, because by nightfall the resupply choppers would arrive with more...