“The Things They Carried” is a story that presents various accounts of painful experiences and traumatic events of the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. The author explores the great use of literary devices in explaining the occurrence of every event. In a well-developed piece that uses imagery, metaphors, reality, and fiction, O’Brien represents the emotional baggage that the soldiers had to carry through the war. The things that the soldiers carried indicated their loss of purity, despair as they lost the way and their narrowed chances of survival.
O’Brien connects different literary devices. The narrative has the themes of conflict, escape guilt and acceptance. The story is narrated in the third person, and the reader becomes aware of the significance of the title. First, O’Brien explains the theme of escape guilt by the letters and pictures Martha sent to lieutenant cross. Cross would spend the whole night looking at the pictures and reading the letters while imagining that he was with her to escape the thought of war. Cross is trying to escape from the reality of war that he was stuck with and he feels guilty about it.
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Similarly, O’Brien mentions several other soldiers who try to escape the reality in a similar way. Rat Kiley uses tranquilizers to escape the same reality, while Dobbin wears a pair of his girlfriend’s stockings around his neck. Seemingly, every character in the story has their unique way of running away from reality. The items used are also symbolically significant as they emphasize on the theme of escape.
The story also explores the theme of love as O’Brien takes us through his thoughts on the love story between Martha and Cross. Lieutenant Cross cannot stop thinking about Martha even at the camp. The two met in college, and ever since, no other girl has given him the same feeling of love that he felt for Martha. Similarly, the fact that Martha did not get married even after she got separated from cross indicates that she loved him. This is a case of mutual love that just would not work out. Whenever he looked at the photographs, he thought of new things he should’ve done. (O’Brien, P.2). This line portrays an element of guilt and regret as lieutenant things of all the things he should have done for the person that he loved.
Lieutenant cross carries with him the hope that he will one day reunite with the love of his life and start a family. He carries her picture everywhere he goes so every time he looks at it, he thinks of everything he should have done.
The title of the story is symbolical as it reflects many things that the soldiers went through during the war.
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