A Lesson in Responsibility: “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Essay

A Lesson in Responsibility: “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Essay

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People carry things with them all the time on a daily basis. They might be physical, emotional or spiritual things. Some people could carry a traumatic past while others simply carry a bag of groceries into their house. The things one carries defines them as a person and brings out their qualities as well as their defects. Some people might think of those things as burdens while others see them as a way out of reality or as something to push them forward, something to believe in.
In “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, O’Brien portrays a captivating message of responsibility to his readers. Its moral explains how we sometimes let ourselves “out” of our problems, because we would like to be somewhere pleasant. The excerpt retrospect’s the war in Vietnam and illustrates the mentality and life of the foot soldiers that fought and died there. By establishing what each character carried in a literal, spiritual, and mental form, the reader can understand what the men were about. By doing so, O’Brien creates a world where reality and imagination meet and are in competition with each other.
Each soldier carried with them necessities, most of them following standard operating procedure. Anywhere from gum to heavy machinery, they carried it.
“By necessity and because it was in accordance with SOP, they carried steel helmets that weighed five pounds each including the liner and camouflage cover.”
Tim O’Brien uses the description of the items the soldiers brought with them to provide better characterization for each man. O’Brien always mentions the exact weight of the items the soldiers carried. This makes the reader feel the load of the soldiers. The first types of items that are mentioned in the story are physical items. These i...


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...hing. “They burned everything. They shot chickens and dogs, they thrashed the village well, they called in artillery and watched the wreckage…” Cross learns a valuable lesson when he losses one of his men who was killed in action due to his (Cross) lack of focus on what was at hand.
Each character carries his utilities throughout the terrain as a necessity and as a distraction from the traumatic events taking place. However, these utilities are also burdens for the soldiers, especially for Lt. Cross. Cross selfishly satisfied his personal desires and fantasies instead of assuming responsibility and being a good leader for his platoon. This act of carelessness makes the squadron indifferent and causes a decrease in responsibility and safety. Everyone carries heavy loads at some point in their lives but it is how one deals with them that makes one truly outstanding.

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