"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien: Were there real things the soldiers carried?

Essay by Sweetnsexy7189High School, 12th gradeA-, December 2006

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What Soldiers Carry

"The Things They Carried" is a book about a group of eighteen young soldiers who are all on ground zero on the Vietnamese battle ground, fighting a gruesome war. Each individual soldier carries a wide variety of things to help them survive the war. The things they carried can be divided into three fundamental categories; the basic things that everyone had to carry in order to survive, the things that each individual chose to carry for person reasons, and the mental burdens that many carried with and without choice.

The necessities that these men were forced to carry were items like P- 38 can openers, pocket knives, matches, C-rations, water, a nylon covered flak jacket, a two pound poncho (that could also be used as a raincoat, groundsheet, or tent), a compress in case of fatal injury, mosquito repellent, marijuana, chewing gum, an M-16 assault rifle, and several magazines of ammunition.

Henry Dobbins (the platoon's machine gunner) had to carry an M-60 (because of his exceptionally large size), which weighed between 33- 38 pounds including ammunition. All of these items were carried for two simple reasons, to survive, and to kill (which was of course their job and purpose in Vietnam). These were the physical things that all soldiers carried in order to survive the tough living conditions that were brought upon them during the war.

Many soldiers also chose to carry things that were not absolutely necessary, but they felt that they could not live with out. For example, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried pictures and letters from his friend Martha, who he fell in love with. Also, Henry Dobbins carries his girlfriend's pantyhose around his neck because he is very superstitious. "He liked putting his nose into the nylon and breathing in the scent...