“the Things They Brought: the American Experience”
“The Important Things They Carried: The American Experience” In the story “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien talks a group of soldiers in the Vietnam War. He does this by explaining the items that each of them brings with him throughout the march. The important things that the soldiers carry with them are both physical and psychological products and what these things are depends upon the soldier. They carry the basic “necessities” for survival and the bare minimum to make life as civilized as possible.
However they also carry memories, and worries, and it is psychological items like these that are the primary focus of the story. The weight of these products is as genuine as that of any physical ones, and unlike those physical items, they are not quickly gotten rid of. Throughout the story, O’Brien changes in between narrative passages and basic descriptions of the items that the soldiers are carrying. This division makes you focus on the important things the males are bring, both tangible and intangible, without restraining the narrative.
In the detailed sections of the story, O’Brien is very exact in his descriptions and appears to be simply cataloging what is being carried: “As a very first lieutenant and army leader, Jimmy Cross brought a compass, maps, code books, field glasses, and a. 45(c)caliber pistol that weighed 2. 9 pounds full filled.” O’Brien gives just straight forward descriptions in these segments and the writing is void of any sensation or sentiment. When explaining the intangible things, however, the writing is a lot more in tune with the emotions of the characters: “Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps …
Lieutenant Cross remembered touching her left knee. A dark theater, he remembered, … when he touched her knee, she turned and took a look at him in an unfortunate, sober way that made him pull his restore, but he would always remember.” O’Brien’s composing handles a softer style in these sections and adds a great deal of feeling for the reader. This contrast in narrative design is necessary to give emphasis to the intangible things that the guys brought. One thing O’Brien does often in explaining the items is to tell just how much it weighs. The weapon weighed 7. 5 pounds unloaded, 8. 2 pounds with its full 20 round publication. The riflemen brought anywhere from 12 to 20 magazines … including on another 8. 4 pounds at minimum, 14 pounds at optimum.” This informs the reader about the burden that the men are bearing in bring these things. Focus is also offered to the weight and pressure the soldiers feel from what they’re bring and from external forces, such as nature. “They brought the sky. The entire environment … they brought gravity. However the greatest weight the males feel originates from absolutely nothing they can physically carry, but rather their emotions: “Sorrow, terror, love, yearning these were psychological burdens, but the mental problems had their own specific gravity, they had tangible weight.” These emotional problems are the heaviest since they remain in your head and therefore can not be gotten rid of. Physical problems can be discarded. Emotional burdens, on the other hand, need to be endured. O’Brien, speaking of cowardice in particular, states, “In many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down. The soldiers understand there is no easy way to rid themselves of their worries because of their abstract nature, but they dream escapist dreams of flying away in an airplane and “falling greater and higher,” free of weight. Jimmy Cross attempts to rid himself of intangible problems by disposing of tangible ones that, to him, represent intangible qualities. He does this by burning his letters from Martha. He knows, though, that this simple act can not rid him of his memories. “He recognized it was just a sign …
Besides, the letters were in his head.” His love for Martha is likewise represented by the small pebble, which she offered him, but the easily non reusable pebble, which weighs simply an ounce, represents a much heavier emotional problem that he can not rid himself of. Cross tries this to try to much better himself as a soldier, however O’Brien leaves it up in the air as to whether he accomplishes this. We can presume, nevertheless, from earlier statements that he will never be completely freed from the love he carries.
The soldiers in “The important things They Carried” carried many things with them on their march. All of the things they carried were a fantastic problem, however none more so than their emotions. All of them carry excellent loads of memories, fears, and desires. These intangible objects are an essential part of them and for that reason can not be put down, but brought and withstood. And as Jimmy Cross comes to recognize, “It was extremely unfortunate … the things guys carried inside.” Work Cited Chen, Tina. Vol. 39, “Unraveling the Deeper Meaning”: Exile and the
Embodied Poetics of Displacement in Tim O’Brien’s “The important things They Brought” No. 1 (Spring, 1998), pp. 77-98 Published by: University of Wisconsin PressStable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/1208922 Naparsteck, Martin. “An Interview with Tim O’Brien”, Tim O’Brien Contemporary Literature Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 1-11 Released by: University of Wisconsin PressStable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/1208335 O’Brian, Tim. “The Important Things they Carried.” The River Reader. Eds. Kathleen Shine Cain, et al. New York: Pearson, 2010 53-55 Print.