The Mental Burdens In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, he introduces the idea that the mental burdens outweigh the physical burdens that those in war must endure. I can relate to the mentalities of many of these men, the question of death would be something constantly crossing my mind as well. Having to constantly wonder when you or the person next to you might die has to be emotionally draining. O’Brien states that the unknowing of the future or the uncertainty many of these soldiers experienced far outweigh the physical agonies that they were forced to endure in order to stay alive, many of the fears or uncertainty was in a sense relieved by remembering their families and homes. It gave them a method of coping with the unknown; the unknown of who …show more content…
This fear came from many sources. They were constantly being haunted by the fear that they may die. Ted Lavender’s death and how they reacted to it showed its impact on the soldiers. Kiowa expresses the sense of weight that the threat of death has on the men when he describes Lavender’s death, "Boom down, he said. Like cement" (250). Lavender’s death is described as being like stone, something massive and heavy. The death of Lavender is repeated several times throughout the story by O’Brien. The repetition is used in order emphasize the fear instilled in these men. This goes through their head multiple times as they fearfully await their fate. This lurking of fate, in their minds, serves as emotional baggage that the men must sustain. The men also carry the soldier’s greatest fear, which is the fear of blushing. The men’s concern for their reputation is one of the heaviest burdens they have to carry. The soldiers feared being called cowards, and simply dreaded the embarrassment that they would feel if they die dishonorably. It is almost as if the soldiers fight and even die because they are ashamed not to. The men’s amount of fear only added to their montage of …show more content…
Cross serves as the best example of a soldier burdened by responsibility. Cross is responsible for all the men since he is their leader of the platoon. Cross’s relationship with Martha leads to the death of Lavender, and he is who must endure the pain of guilt. In the end, Cross burns the photographs and letters that Martha has sent him. On page 259, it states that he does this to "burn the blame," but quickly upon that action Cross learns that it is impossible . He must forget about Martha and focus on the responsibility of leading his men through the war. Cross’s very name is a symbolic figure of the weight that he must endure; the lieutenant’s name makes him comparable to Christ. Cross, as Christ did, must carry the weight of all of his men upon his shoulders. He is responsible for the outcome of their lives. This responsibility is one of the heaviest of burdens that Cross must carry. While Cross is troubled with responsibility for his men, his men are burdened mentally by uncertainty. For example, they are uncertain about their deaths. Another burning question that is on everyone’s mind concerns the purpose of the Vietnam War; why are the soldiers even there? They march "without purpose" (80) and wrestle with the "ambiguities of Vietnam" (81). This uncertainty of why the soldiers are in Vietnam causes feelings of doubt in their sense of well-being. It becomes harder

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