Character Analysis: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

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One of the main characters in the short story “The Things They Carried”, written by Tim O’Brien, is a twenty-four year old Lieutenant named Jimmy Cross. Jimmy is the assigned leader of his infantry unit in the Vietnam War, but does not assume his role accordingly. Instead, he’s constantly daydreaming, along with obsessing, over his letters and gifts from Martha. Martha is a student at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey, Jimmy’s home state. He believes that he is in love with Martha, although she shows no signs of loving him. This obsession is a fantasy that he uses to escape from reality, as well as, take his mind off of the war that surrounds him, in Vietnam. The rest of the men in his squad have items that they carry too, as a way …show more content…
The Vietnam War was full of men just like Jimmy, teenagers and young men in their early twenties, and a majority of these “kids” were just as inexperienced as he was. Jimmy may have not been the greatest leader at first, but he always had good intentions. As the story continues, he begins to understand that “he is responsible for the lives of his own men”, and he seems to mature significantly towards the end. Although, Up until the end of the story, Jimmy continued to struggle with focusing on leading his platoon, and couldn’t seem to stop himself from fantasizing about Martha. One of the biggest problems that Jimmy struggled with, was focusing, his mind was constantly thinking of Martha, the woman he believed to be in love with. Even when he was marching with his soldiers, he was daydreaming about her. “Jimmy's thoughts are consumed by Martha and he often daydreams about her when he should be paying attention to leading his men through the villages of Vietnam” (Overview: “The Things They Carried” par.2). Tim O’Brien states this, “On occasion he would yell at his men to spread out the column, to keep their eyes open, but then he would slip away into daydreams, just pretending, walking barefoot along the Jersey shore, with Martha, carrying nothing” (599). This lack of focus has a huge impact on Jimmy’s squad, they need a real leader to guide them, provide them with physical and emotional support, and assume the
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