The Things They Carried Theme Essay

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In “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien shares numerous war stories to illustrate the life of a soldier in the Vietnam War. Throughout the book, the narrator, Tim O’Brien, shares stories about the soldiers in his platoon during the war. He shares what each soldier carried and its significance. He also discusses the effects of the war on the soldiers’ life, including his own, by using themes. O’Brien utilizes several themes in his stories, such as love and guilt. O’Brien employed these themes to portray the life of a soldier as well as his own experiences in the Vietnam War. Love was an important theme because it motivated the soldiers, as well as distract them. Guilt was also an important theme because it signified the innocence amongst the …show more content…
Cross was responsible for the other soldiers in his platoon. He carried letters from a girl named Martha. Although the letters were not love letters, Cross was hoping that one day Martha would love him back. Everyday, Cross imagined his perfect life with Martha. “He would imagine romantic camping trips into the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He would sometimes taste the envelope flaps, knowing her tongue had been there. More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her…” (P#1). Cross’ behavior is the result of the intensity of the war. Every night, after a long march, he would dig a foxhole and read Martha’s letter to help him deal with the stress. His life was engulfed with feelings about Martha. It distracted him from performing his duties as a leader. When Ted Lavender was shot in combat, Cross did not think to lift the heavy backpack that was crushing Lavender. Instead, Cross was thinking about Martha. This goes to show how much “love” has affected Cross’ life as a soldier. Years later, Cross admits to O’Brien that he still feels guilty about Lavender’s death and that he has never forgiven himself. Love was a big theme in this book because it made the soldiers weak and it made them easy targets. But at the same time, it motivated them to fight and return to their loved ones in one …show more content…
He always opposed the war, even when he was in Vietnam. One day, he decided to cross the border into Canada, hoping to avoid being deployed into war. He planned a fishing trip to the Rainy River. He soon realized that his decision will cause his family to be shamed and he will lose his respect in the community. He was very close to fleeing into Canada, when he realized that he has to go to war and not doing so would be embarrassing. Later in the book, O’Brien shares a story about a situation in My Khe, where he kills a young boy in Vietnam. He felt guilty about killing the boy because O’Brien could have let the boy pass. Instead, he threw a grenade and took his life. He stares at the boy’s corpse and wonders what would have happened if he let him go. “His life was a constellation of possibilities… He devoted his life to studies. He spent his nights alone, wrote romantic poems in his journal, took pleasure in grace and beauty of differential equations” (P#122). He started to imagine the life of the boy without this incident. Kiowa, a fellow soldier, tried to convince O’Brien that this was necessary and that if he let him go, the other soldiers would have done the same. Tim O’Brien is haunted by guilt throughout the book, because he is convinced that if he let the boy go, he would’ve lived a better life. This shows how “guilt” affected the soldiers. It breaks the soldiers’

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