The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien Essay

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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

"The Things They Carried" list the variety of things his fellow soldiers in the Alpha Company brought on their missions. Several of these things cannot be seen, including guilt and fear, while others are specific physical objects, including matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, and M&M's candy. Throughout the collection, the same characters reappear in various stories. The first member of the Alpha Company to die is Ted Lavender, a "grunt," or low-ranking soldier, who deals with his anxiety about the war by taking tranquilizers and smoking marijuana. Lavender is shot in the head on his way back from going to the bathroom, and his superior, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, blames himself for the
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Though O'Brien is not close to Lemon, in "The Dentist," he tells a story of how Lemon, who faints before a routine checkup with an army-issued dentist, tries to save face by insisting that a perfectly good tooth be pulled. Lee Strunk, another member of the company, dies from injuries he sustains by stepping on a landmine. In "Friends," O'Brien remembers that before Strunk was fatally hurt, Strunk and Dave Jensen had made a pact that if either man were irreparably harmed, the other man would see that he was quickly killed. However, when Strunk is actually hurt, he begs Jensen to spare him, and Jensen complies. Instead of being upset by the news of his friend's swift death en route to treatment, Jensen is relieved. The death that receives the most attention in The Things They Carried is that of Kiowa, a much-loved member of the Alpha Company and one of O'Brien's closest friends. In "Speaking of Courage," the story of Kiowa's death is relayed in retrospect through the memory of Norman Bowker, years after the war. As Bowker drives around a lake in his Iowa hometown, he thinks that he failed to save Kiowa, who was killed when a mortar round hit and caused him to sink headfirst into a marshy field. O'Brien realizes that he has dealt with his guilt over Kiowa's death differently than Norman Bowker in "Notes." Just before the end of the war, O'Brien receives a long letter from Bowker that says he
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