Theme Of Symbolism In The Things They Carried

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The Ball and Chains of War In the short story, “The Things They Carried”, Tim O’Brien does an excellent job of using various literary elements to develop a theme of the emotional and physical burdens soldiers endure. The two main literary elements that develop this theme most clearly are his uses of character, and use of symbolism. In “The Things They Carried”, Tim O’Brien narrates a story in first person about being drafted into the army and fighting in Vietnam. He tells us of a man who left a girl he loved. He tells us of all the physical items his squadron had to carry. He describes his everyday life as a soldier, and what seems tragic to us is just another thing that soldiers see every day and must carry on with. The themes being …show more content…
He makes the choice to leave a girl he loves named Martha. Not only does he have to carry the supplies required for every soldier and his letters and photos that he remembers Martha by, he also has to carry his love for her. This is demonstrated in the sentence stating, “To carry is to “hump” it, as Lieutenant Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps” (O’Brien 115). Wording it this way, demonstrates how Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s love for Martha was like a ball and chain, making it much harder to march on through the already difficult terrain. The emotional ball and chain does more than just slow him down. It also affects his decision making ability, which leads to another emotional burden. He feels like he is responsible for the death of fellow soldier, Ted Lavender, because he was too preoccupied thinking about Martha to use his better judgement and be aware of his surroundings so that he could protect his soldiers that he is in charge …show more content…
The unpredictability of the war begins with the draft. In one of Tim O’Brien’s squad’s special missions that they are assigned, they must send one person into a tunnel to scope it out. To decide who must be the one to go into the tunnel, they draw straws. All members of group have to draw straws except for Henry Dobbins who cannot fit in the tunnel. This mission is referred to as “tunnel duty”, and it is symbolic of the draft. The tunnel is like the war and it is our duty to sign up for it. The drawing of straws symbolizes the draft. The draft is luck of the draw if you had to go or not. The soldier then enters the tunnel, or the war, and emerge as a brave hero to those of who were fortunate enough to not go. Kiowa is another character who is used to symbolize the reality of the war that no one wants to admit. Kiowa tells the story of Ted Lavender being shot in the head in a humorous way as if he didn’t want to admit the reality of the

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