Symbolism In The Things They Carried

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It’s interesting to think about the things people might carry with them if they were forced to go to war. Would you sacrifice a little extra weight to bring a good luck charm, or an extra gun and ammunition to provide more safety? In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” much of the story is spent describing the certain weapons, materials, and emotional burdens the men in Viet Nam carried. Even though some soldiers, such as Mitchell Sanders, carry extremely heavy objects like “the PRC-25 radio, a killer, twenty-six pounds with its battery,” First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross shows the reader that the heaviest things men carry with them are usually emotional, rather than physical (1067). In Lieutenant Cross’ case, the heaviest thing he carries with him is his love for his friend…show more content…
After one of his men is killed, Cross puts the blame on himself and his silly obsession for Martha. To try and prevent any future casualties or problems that would be caused by this obsession, he decides to burn her photos and letters to try and help him forget about her. O’Brien presents an interesting argument to the reader in this story: does the “weight” of an emotional burden such as love keep you alive, or kill you? Through Jimmy Cross’ decision to burn Martha’s letters and photos, O’Brien attempts to explain how this seemingly sentimental gesture is a symbolic way for Cross to relieve some of the “weight” brought on by his passionate love for her, and how this sentimental act relates to other events occurring in Viet Nam, such as the burning of Than Khe. His “stupid,” sentimental gesture leads him to realize what he always knew, but never accepted; his love for Martha was not mutual, and the emotional burden of his love for her wasn’t worth the risk to him
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