Emotional Burdens In O Brien's The Things They Carried

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War never changes, it only causes change in the lives of the people affected by its outcome. War brings expected physical weight upon soldiers, but physical weight is not the only burden that soldiers carry. Soldiers carry unexpected emotional burdens that can cause them to become distracted from the real danger which is war. Emotional burdens can also outweigh the weight of physical burdens. In The things they Carried, O’Brien illustrates how emotional burdens are a weight that cannot be escaped in life, demonstrated through the use of imagery, strong emotion symbolism, and the voice of the speaker.
Weight is illustrated both physically and emotionally as these symbolic weights are listed throughout and represent all the harsh conditions
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As an active soldier and lieutenant Cross’s voice is used to illustrate the burdens that war implements upon a person. Cross has taken the burden upon himself to look after each and every one of his men, this states that he mustn’t have any outside distraction. His reputation as a leader must meet the oath he took to protect his men, but it is rapidly tainted with his emotional conflict to love Martha without her physically being there. Cross is easily distracted by the mental images of his beloved Martha causing him to lose focus as stated, “Cross moved to the tunnel, leaned down, and examined the darkness. Trouble, he thought—a cave-in maybe. And then suddenly, without willing it, he was thinking about Martha” (O’Brien 5). In this situation Cross has been overwhelmed by his burden of Martha’s “love” that he no longer realizes that there could even be a threat in the cave, putting everyone in danger and harming his own credibility as leader. Cross’s careless behavior as a leader caused one of his men’s life, Ted Lavender. In addition, as leader Cross has to live with guilt or burden, but could not seem to get away from his other emotional burden of love he felt, “He pictured Martha 's smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men, and now Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and could not stop thinking about her” (O’Brien 3). There was nothing else that Cross could do, but to live with the guilt and redeem himself by insuring his men were not killed due to his poor leadership. Cross makes the ultimate dissection that his team is more important than his love for Martha by trying to get rid of his thought for her as stated, “Lieutenant Jimmy Cross crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha 's letters. Then he burned the two photographs (O’Brien 10). O’Brien sates

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