Essay on O'Brien's The Things They Carried

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O'Brien's The Things They Carried

O’Connor remarks “The Things They Carried” is a short story that is written “as an experience not an abstraction” and that “the meaning has been embodied in it”. These quotations are truly pure in description and interpretation of the short story as the reader, must look beyond the crude physical properties of the objects and actions chronicled and focus more upon their hidden meanings and messages.

O’Brien uses the physical characteristics of weight to make an impact upon the reader to relate with the men. In emphasizing the soldier’s everyday burden, the reader can easily relate to the situation in general. As the story progresses, the main attention of the
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For example, Lt. Jimmy Cross carried letters from Martha that he continually fantasized about. Kiowa carried his grandfather’s old hunting hatchet as a way to hold on to his cultural past.

The additional weight depended somewhat upon the soldier’s rank and position. For example, the radiotelephone operator carried a twenty-six pound radio as part of his position. The machine gunner, Henry Dobbs, carried a twenty-three pound M-60 gun as part of his duty. Most of the soldiers were either of the rank Private First Class or Specialist Fourth Class, and therefore were known as “common grunts”. PFC’s and Spec 4’s were required to carry their rifles and grenade launchers. It is through all of this detailed description of the field equipment (to the pound) that the physical hardships of the men are truly described.

The emotional weight that each man endured is also described, but in a more profound amount of mind compelling detail. In the description of what Ted Lavendar was carrying at the time of his death, the author describes the usual flack jacket and helmet, but also his “unweighed fear”. Truly, this unweighed fear is captured in the quote “They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried”. The meaning of this is that the men could hide their feelings in their equipment, but were actually at
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