"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brian

Essay by jeffparkerhillUniversity, Bachelor'sA, February 2005

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Perception After the Fact

Tim O'Brian's short story "The Things They Carried" is a description of military equipment that ground soldiers carried during the Vietnam War. O'Brian provides great detail about each piece of equipment including each item's purpose, and when it was used. To more clearly illustrate the challenge faced by the soldiers and the equipment they used, the story follows a plot about a platoon of men lead by First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. In the climax of the story, one of Cross's men, Ted Lavender, wandered into the woods alone (against standard orders) and got shot in the head. Cross then faced feelings of guilt that perhaps Lavender's death was his own fault. This demonstrates one of the lessons of the story; Sometimes we feel responsible for something that happens, even though we could not have prevented it.

Ranking on the top of the list of items the men were forced to carry, were the necessities.

For example, some of the necessities included: P-38 can openers, pocket knives, matches, C-rations, water, a nylon covered flak jacket, and an M-16 assault rifle. All of these items were carried for two simple reasons: the first for survival the other to provide deadly force. Killing was of course their job, and along with this came the chance of being killed. Unexpected events, like the death of Lavender, were bound to happen even with all the necessities and lethal weapons the government provided.

Besides carrying necessities, each individual carried personal items of significant importance. Although these items were not essential for survival, they were important in boosting moral and maintaining a connection to their lives back home. For Example, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters and pictures of his desired sweetheart Martha. He was madly in love with her, even...