The Things They Carried

???Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak.??? (14)
???He felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war??? (16)
???They carried the secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down??¦they carried their reputations. They carried the soldier??™s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing.??? (21)
The men formed a tight bond; the only thing they had, other than their material objects and memories, were each other. Even if they did not like each other, they stood by one another. Like in a family, you don??™t have to like on another, but you do have to love each other.
A lieutenant, Jimmy Cross carried the weight of his men. Although they all carried their own baggage, Cross held them emotionally. Anything that could happen, he took it upon himself. The death of Lavender gave him reasoning to try to get over Martha. He knew she would never return his love, yet it is not easy for one to get over someone they love when they hold nothing against them. Once Cross had something to blame Martha for, it became easier for him. Like the pebble he carried in his mouth given to him by Martha for good luck, he now holds a pebble in his stomach; also given to him because of Martha, this stone does not resemble luck like the last one did, but sorrow and a heaviness that will always be there.
*In war, the men could not show any sign of fear. Although they all carried the same emotion of cowardice in their hearts, so show this was even more cowardice than to hide it. They could show sorrow, happiness, almost any other emotion;* however they could not express fear. Soldiers are supposed to be strong people, carrying the nation??™s peace in their hands, and the men in the novel tried their best to live up to this, even though they knew they were nowhere near this on the inside.
Again, the men believed that they had to live up to the stereotypes of soldiers. They had to be strong and conceal their fear.
???But the thing about remembering is that you don??™t forget. You take your material where you find it, which is in your life, at the intersection of past and present. The memory-traffic feeds into a rotary up on your head, where it goes in circles for a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges* and shoots off down a thousand different streets. *As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come at you. That??™s the real obsession. All those stories.??? (35)
*???Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those* late hours in the night when you can??™t remember how you got from where you were to where you are now. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.??? (38)
O??™Brien describes the human mind like a system of roads; it starts out as one, but as you keep treading along, you are faced with so many more roads, and each one of those roads branches off into more, and the process never ends. He believes that as one remembers, as he writes about the events of the war, he is reliving it. He begins with one story, and that one leads to another, and it just keeps going like a circle. This is O??™Brien??™s reasoning for why the novel goes in so many directions. As one story ends, another one begins, with no format whatsoever.
This is why O??™Brien writes. Although the war occurred twenty-something years prior to his writing, ???remembering makes it now.??? The stories are still alive inside of his mind, replaying over and over, and by putting them on paper, O??™Brien wishes to silence them in his head. However, when he tells the stories, he does not tell them in a condensing tone. Instead, it seems as the story progresses, so does his acceptance of what happened. He knows changing the past is impossible, yet forgetting it is inevitable.
Although O??™Brien feared going to the war, he also feared not going to war. He knew that if he did he would be forced to fight for a cause he was strongly against, and if he stayed, he would have to hide from his family, friends, and the law. He was a coward for going, yet a coward for staying. Either way, he was hiding from something inside of himself.
???Listen to Rat: ???Jesus Christ, man, I write this beautiful fuckin??™ letter, I slave over it, and what happens The dumb cooze never writes back.??™??? (69)
???You hate it, yes, but your eyes do not.??? (81)
O??™Brien displays society??™s inhumanity to the soldiers. Rat writes to his best friends sister, pouring his heart out into a letter that he wet with his tears after the death of his friend. His friend is dead, and the sister doesn??™t even care. O??™Brien says that is sad and true. The soldiers are out risking their lives for a cause that benefits those sitting at home back in America, and yet these people can??™t even find it in their heart to write back. Although the role of a soldier usually proves to be one that contains inhumanity, O??™Brien shows that the average person holds more inhumanity than the soldiers ever will.
In war, O??™Brien describes, your eyes are blind. However, you are consciously aware of what is going on around you. Yet, your eyes refuse to see it. You cannot see something you don??™t want to see, and even if you do, your mind changes it to something other than the truth.
Surrounded in the midst of death and evil, the soldiers feel the things that are alive even more. The trees, the grass, all of these things we take for granted day to day. However, they are more alive than we are, and when they are the only living things around, you start to feel guilty that you never appreciated them before.
Life is something we all take for granted. Yet, O??™Brien shows that the soldiers are the ones who appreciate it the most. Although they are trained to take life from others, they are the ones that realize just how valuable life is. During war time, they are always close to death; therefore they live everyday like it is their last, an aliveness that keeps them going everyday.
??????You got these blinders on about women. How gentle and peaceful they are. All that crap about how if we had a pussy for president there wouldn??™t be no more wars. Pure garbage. You got to get rid of that sexist attitude.??? (107)
???The girl joined the zoo. One more animal??”end of story.??? (107)
???She had crossed to the other side. She was part of the land. She was wearing her culottes, her pink sweater, and a necklace of human tongues. She was dangerous. She was ready for the kill.??? (116)
Mary Ann changed Rat??™s view on women. Although most men would never want to see a woman in office or even in combat, Rat embraces it. Mary Ann went into the war like any other girl out of high school; long blond hair, short skirts, and pink sweaters. Once she became engulfed by the war, however, she became just another soldier; short hair, dirty face, and decked in green uniform.
Rat is referring to the army as a zoo, and its animals are the soldiers. Mary Ann just became one more soldier; there??™s nothing different about her. Although she is a woman, they do not recognize her as one; she is just another soldier added to the thousands of others fighting the same war.
O??™Brien shows the effects of war on every type of person. Although Mary Ann is no longer with the soldiers, she still shows a part of them. She is two different people now; the pink sweater being her old self, and the necklace of tongues representing her new self. She is now a part of the land, a place where she feels she belongs. The two contrasting things she is wearing show the conflict inside of her. Although she appears sweet and innocent, which the pink sweater helps to create, she is dangerous and courageous on the inside, features that the necklace of tongues shows.
???In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor.??? (117)
?????™No sweat,??™ he said. ???The magic doesn??™t go away.??™??? (118)
???I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy; I did not ponder issues of morality or politics or military duty.??? (132)
O??™Brien describes Henry Dobbins as an American. Although at times O??™Brien uses a condescending tone when speaking of America, here he describes America as a good guy. He appreciates Dobbins, and tells his story with a sort of admiration.
Although Dobbins girlfriend breaks up with him, he continues to wear her pantyhose around his neck. When he wears them, he feels protected. He doesn??™t want to give them up; they are his only connection to the real world. The magic, being a connection to his past, is something he does not want to give up, even though it is actually gone.
O??™Brien??™s repetition of ???I did not??? indicates his obsession over the fact that he killed a man. He repeats* it over and over in order to *comfort himself, however he will never be content with what happened.
???How the cold worked into your bones. Sometimes the bravest thing on earth was to sit through the night and feel the cold in your bones. Courage was not always a matter of yes or no. Sometimes it came in degrees, like the cold; sometimes you were very brave up to a point and then beyond that point you were not so brave. In certain situation you could do incredible things, you could advance toward enemy fire, but in other situations, which were not nearly so bad, you had trouble keeping your eyes open. Sometimes, like that night in the shit field, the difference between courage and cowardice was something small and stupid.??? (147)
???The emotional core came directly from Bowker??™s letter: the simple need to talk.??? (158)
*O??™Brien keeps the concept of courage and cowardice going throughout his novel. Although he draws a fine line between the two, Norman explains that there is only a slight difference between the two. Everyone of the soldiers carries both of these feelings with them throughout the war as well as throughout the rest of their lifetime. They experience them constantly, and sometimes even at the same time. Norman experienced both the night Kiowa died. *He wanted to save him, he really did, but the smell took over. He now blames himself for letting something so ???small and stupid??? keep him from being courageous. This refers back to when O??™Brien stated that he was a coward for going to war. Cowardice is every where. Whether or not one stayed behind and hid from the way, he was always to experience cowardice.
O??™Brien seems to speak for the soldiers through their stories. They all feel the need to tell their stories, and yet there is no one to listen. O??™Brien tells the story of each of the men in his troop, paying them the respects they need.
Again, O??™Brien opens up the subject of truth. He stated that a war story isn??™t told for truth, but for the moral. This is completely seen in the story of Kiowa and Norman. Because the story would have more of an effect with false facts, O??™Brien decided to include them. However, I was rather disappointed when I read that these statements were false. I would rather be told the truth from the beginning then to be told a lie and hear that it is false. O??™Brien writes to speak for the soldiers; why does he make up false facts then
???I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth??¦.What stories can do, I guess, is make things present??¦I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again.???(179-180)
O??™Brien feels as though lying in a story is not important. Rather, the feeling it creates is what is essential to the meaning. He describes the things stories can do by repeating the words ???I can.??? A story enables him to do much more than he could ever do in real life. A story is the barrier between courage and cowardice. By bending the truth, he can make the story seem more courageous, however, he can also make it seem more cowardly in certain aspects. A story allows him to do as he pleases, to be the person he truly wants to be in all aspects of life. A story, rather than telling the truth, is meant to leave an impact on his readers. O??™Brien does not wish for the story to be a recollection of war stories, but rather a collection of stories that will change your views on war completely. O??™Brien plays with the truth throughout The Things They Carried**. From the beginning, he hinted that we will never really know what truly happens in war. The truth will always be hidden, however not lost. The truth is there, it is just hidden behind details that are meant to indulge a reader. All good stories are based on a true story, yet they are never completely a true** story.
O??™Brien is going through an internal conflict. He contrasts two very opposing lifestyles; intellectual and war. He spent the first half of his life as a college graduate, someone with an education that would do him good for his many years to come. However, he soon realizes that none of this matters in his new life, a life tainted by war. His use of juxtaposition shows the contrast between the two lifestyles. Intellectual words are used to describe his initial life, while short, common words are used to show what his life now is as a result of the war.
???And then I concentrated. I willed her alive. It was a dream, I suppose, or a daydream, but I made it happen. I saw her coming down the middle of Main Street, all alone. It was nearly dark and the street was deserted, no cars or people, and Linda wore a pink dress and shiny black shoes. I remember sitting down on the curb to watch. All her hair had grown back. The scars and stitches were gone. In the dream, if that??™s what it was, she was playing a game of some sort, laughing and running up the empty street, kicking a big aluminum water bucket??¦Right then I started to cry.??? (238)
*In real life, O??™Brien did not cry for Linda. Rather than grieving for her, he dreamt about her. She was alive in his dreams, and therefore that is where he wanted to be*. *O??™Brien tells stories in order to make his memories come alive once again. He says, ???we kept the dead alive with our stories.??? The dead will always be a fragment of their memories, yet as they retell a story, they become alive. It gives the story-teller a chance to be reunited with the one they lost to death. Death, which is constantly brought up throughout the novel, seems to be everyone??™s biggest hatred. Although they do not fear death, they are cowards against it. However, because there is no way that they can prevent it from happening, *they find ways against it. They fight death in their stories and memories, they relive their lives with the dead, and although they know that these people will never come back, they still remember them as thought they just saw them the other day.
O??™Brien constantly repeats this throughout the story. The fact that he is forty-three and a writer seems to hold much significance to him. He is no longer a soldier; he is no longer a nine year old boy in love with his sweetheart. It seems as though he keeps repeating this in order to make himself believe it. He gets lost in the stories at various times of the novel, and because a story shows re-happening rather than re-telling, O??™Brien gets to live his past all over again. Although he went into the war hating it, and even emerged from the war very bitter, he grew immensely. He would not keep remembering and trying to relive the years of the war if he did not enjoy them so much, even if they did come with grief and pain.