Personal Identity In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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Personal identity is a common philosophical struggle that humans face. What makes us who we are, and why are we here are two crucial questions we have debated over since the dawn of civilization. From birth, we are constantly gaining experience and knowledge not only to survive but also to create our own world-view. Even though we are complex creatures, we have a tendency to categorize the world around us into simple boxes. When a new topic is introduced which doesn’t already fit in one of our boxes, we are offset by this idea. Right from wrong is an essential category that we create. There are moments in life that make people face the daunting gray area, which conflicts with the self. Tim O’Brien in The Things They Carried shows how war can …show more content…
Some usual characteristics of a leader are an unwavering dedication to one’s cause, the ability to focus on that task at hand, and bravery. Cross doesn’t seem to have these characteristics and falls short of being a hero. His distractions show when, “He pictured Martha’s smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything else, more than his men, and now Ted Lavender was dead…”(6). Cross is just a normal guy, thinking about the woman he loves but the burden of death weighs heavily on his shoulders because he is the man in charge. People have unrealistic expectations of soldiers thinking that they are able to remove their own humanity and become cold-hearted killing machines. O’Brien uses this to get the reader to connect because most people can 't relate to that special someone they can’t get off their mind. What he tries to hit home with is that normal things got people killed and that was impossible to avoid because of human fallibility. Heroes are supposed to have passion and drive but Cross didn’t, “care one way or the other about the war and he had no desire to command”(161). How can anyone have a passion for leading men into combat over a senseless war? If the outcome doesn’t matter as in the case of Vietnam, how can there be any motivation to keep moving on? He isn’t a coward for not wanting to be in the position he is in; he’s just being honest and reasonable. There are …show more content…
People don’t think of heroes as being psychologically damaged, so his character shows that war doesn’t breed heroes it creates a catastrophe. People can’t begin to understand a situation unless they emerge themselves in those circumstances and even then a subject like war will always be hazy. Bowker’s resentment shows when he talks about soldiers getting their “back clapped by a bunch of patriotic idiots who don’t know jack about what it feels like to kill people… or watch your buddy go down underneath the mud”(150). Bowker doesn’t feel pride for the actions taken during the war and would much rather have his friend Kiowa than some pointless medal. It is impossible to begin to understand what soldiers went through, making them not the ideal heroes. We as civilians are only able to see the part of an outcome of what they did, the medals, which to soldiers meant relatively nothing. Psychological recovery comes from being able to share what traumatizes oneself, but Vietnam being an unpopular war created an unhealthy environment for the men who came back. People didn’t want the truth, they wanted something to be proud of “their boys” for, and when reality doesn’t meet expectations it shuts up the people who are in need. What hits hard is when Bowker writes the letter to O’Brien and talks about “A guy who can’t get his act together and just drives around

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