Symbolism in “The Things They Carried”

Meaning in “The Things They Carried”

A. Park The Important Things They Carried The signs in Tim O’brien’s “The Things They Carried” are essential to comprehending the soldiers and their lives throughout the Vietnam War. At the opening of the story, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross would go into his trench and check out the letters while envisioning love with Martha; however, at the end of the story after the death of Ted Lavender, he “bent at the bottom of his trench and burned Martha’s letters” (402 ). The inner feelings of Cross would be mistakenly ignored without the assistance of symbols throughout his travel through Vietnam.

O’Brien uses the psychological and physical weight carried by the soldiers as a representation of their characters and how they choose to manage the war. The necessary and luxurious products brought by each solider provides a glance of individuality and customization of how they psychologically deal during the Vietnam War. The psychological weight brought by Cross represented the trauma he is feeling throughout the war. O’Brien’s use of symbols, such as the physical superstitious products and emotional burdens brought by the soldiers, exemplify the individual and ethical problems each soldier is coping with at war.

The vital sign in the story was Martha’s letters to Lieutenant Cross, highlighting the emotion burden and lack of ability to be the leader he wished to be. The letters saved and carried in his rucksack that he read every evening assisted to supply him comfort by directing his mind to another location during the Vietnam War. They served the purpose of his diversion and dreams while combating the war with the strength they provided him. The narrator specifies that “They were not love letters, however Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack” (392 ).

This hope began to obstruct his vision and task as an officer in Vietnam. Not just was he bring the ounces of paper on his back, however the emotional weight of the sacrifice he made in order to serve his nation, which caused him to lose one of his guys. A secondary sign in the story was the photos and pebble that Martha had offered Cross which “suggested burdens far beyond the intransitive” (393 ). He had touched these items day by day, wondering who had been next to her while she had actually obtained the pebble from the beach, or who put the shadow in the picture of her.

His mind would race day and night, making it tough for him to provide appropriate attention on the war. Cross “would yell at his men to expand the column, to keep their eyes open, however then he would slip away into visions, simply pretending, walking barefoot along the Jersey coast; with Martha, carrying nothing” (396 ). Cross would wish for nothing more than to be bring nothing. These physical things weighed him down terribly after the death of Ted Lavender. He had actually enjoyed Martha much more than his males, and due to his overpowering love he had lost among them.

The pebble was not just a sign of importance to Cross as he handled the trauma of war, however as the physical weight he carried due to the death of his man. These physical signs assisted to identify a shift in the story when Cross chooses to open up and make a modification to the method he is coping with the war after Lavender’s death. This “wouldn’t help Lavender, he understood that, however from this point on he would comport himself as an officer” (403 ). Another sign O’Brien used in the story was the superstitious products brought by the soldiers which helped them to manage the trauma of the war.

Dave Jensen brought a bunny’s foot for great luck to safeguard him from the unknown. Carrying around the bunny foot offered him convenience, which assisted him in managing the fear of being at war. Norman Bowker had actually carried with him the thumb from the dead young boy that Mitchell Sanders had presented to him as a present. Bowker was an extremely tender guy; however, this thumb advised him that he was difficult and absolutely nothing was going to stop him from making it through this war. The injury of being at war had actually desensitized the soldiers, leaving them no regard for others.

After removing the thumb from the young boy, Sanders smiles as he “kicked the kid’s head, viewed the flies spread, and said, It resembles with that old TELEVISION show– Paladin. Have weapon, will travel” (398 ). The character Paladin in Have weapon, will take a trip is required to hunt and eliminate a strange gunman, relating this TV show to the truth of war and the loss of moral principles these soldiers continue to try to find in their superstitious products. The war has hardened them from the inside out. The emblem of the thumb represents the psychological and psychological modifications that the guys go through up every hill and through the swamps.

These soldiers hesitated of the unknown. The superstitious signs they carried with them throughout the war permit the reader to feel all of the emotional luggage and horror that these guys endure dawn to sunset. The narrator mentions that “They brought the soldier’s greatest worry, which was the worry of blushing. Men eliminated, and died, due to the fact that they were humiliated not to” (401 ). Meaning functions in the story by relating the physical and emotional weight carried by the Vietnam soldiers to the fear, callousness and insensitivity each male is handling at war.

O’Brien composed this story with the intent to customize the Vietnam War through symbols to express the true sensations of the guys while taking a trip through the swamps and jungle. This causes a higher understanding of attaching too closely to a physical product when there is a remarkable issue at stake, a war and males that need to be secured and comforted. Utilizing symbols in this story makes it imaginative and remarkable, as well as providing less information till there is a fantastic understanding at the end of the story.

The very first couple of pages of the story seem to be a description of a Lieutenant that is perhaps obsessed over a female back home, followed by a comprehensive description of each product brought by each soldier and by those individually. At the end of the story it is understood that these guys remained in “another world, where there were no pretty poems or midterm examinations, a place where guys died due to the fact that of carelessness and gross stupidity. Kiowa was right. Boom-down, and you were dead, never ever partially dead” (403 ).