March 23, 2008
The Things They Carried: The Necessities of War
In the novel, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien uses imagery and description to help the reader grasp how ordinary material items or necessities are acquired in a crisis such as war. Throughout the novel, O’Brien depicts the characters as everyday men to whom anyone can relate. His precise descriptions of each character and the items they carry capture a dramatic experience and provide an image of human nature itself.
Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, Tim O’Brien, Henry Dobbins, Ted Lavender, Kiowa, Rat Kiley, and Norman Bowker make up a battalion that finds itself in the middle of the Vietnam War. These young men bring a variety of items with them for survival and designed to help them cope with the reality of wartime. “The responsibilities of carrying their personal belongings help establish the soldiers’ physical burden” (Stoddard 1). A compress, a two-pound poncho, an M-16 assault rifle, magazines of ammunition, and grenade launchers were the usual necessities that all of the men were required to carry with them. However, each soldier also carried other items that held specific meaning which offered comfort during difficult situations.
Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried various reminders of his lover Martha. According to Lanksbury, “Cross’s fear makes his love of Martha a necessity” (1). He carried her letters and a good luck pebble. Martha’s letters are poetic in nature, which offer a distraction from the war (O’Brien 1). He also carried a map and a compass for guidance. More importantly he carried the responsibility for his own survival as well as the lives of the men in his battalion (2).
Tim O’Brien brought with him the basic necessities of a young man in war (2). He kept mosquito repellent to rid himself of any irritating insect found in this unknown country. He also carried marijuana, pocket knives, and a supply of chewing gum with him at...