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Character Analysis: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

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One of the main characters in the short story “The Things They Carried”, written by Tim O’Brien, is a twenty-four year old Lieutenant named Jimmy Cross. Jimmy is the assigned leader of his infantry unit in the Vietnam War, but does not assume his role accordingly. Instead, he’s constantly daydreaming, along with obsessing, over his letters and gifts from Martha. Martha is a student at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey, Jimmy’s home state. He believes that he is in love with Martha, although she shows no signs of loving him. This obsession is a fantasy that he uses to escape from reality, as well as, take his mind off of the war that surrounds him, in Vietnam. The rest of the men in his squad have items that they carry too, as a way of connecting to their homes. The story depicts the soldiers by the baggage that they carry, both mentally and physically. After the death of one of his troops, Ted Lavender, Jimmy finally realizes that his actions have been detrimental to the squad as a whole. He believes that if he would have been a better leader, that Ted Lavender would have never been shot and killed. The physical and emotional baggage that Jimmy totes around with him, in Vietnam, is holding him back from fulfilling his responsibilities as the First Lieutenant of his platoon. Jimmy has apparent character traits that hold him back from being the leader that he needs to be, such as inexperience and his lack of focus; but develops the most important character trait in the end, responsibility.
Jimmy Cross, being only twenty-four years old, was very inexperienced, as were most of the others serving in Vietnam. As stated by Tim O’Brien, in this short story, “He was just a kid at war, in love” (600). He didn’t want to be the leade...

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...g exclusively on the war and men of whom he is in charge of. It ends up taking the death of one of his men, Ted Lavender, for Jimmy to realize that he needed to get his priorities straight; which included, being the leader that his troops deserved. In conclusion, Jimmy’s character traits changed immensely, from several negative traits in the beginning, to ample positive traits in the end. Jimmy took on his responsibility as the First Lieutenant, and began taking the necessary steps to bettering himself, along with his troops.

Works Cited

O'Brien, Tim. "The Things They Carrried." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 2010. 595-607. Print.

"Overview: “The Things They Carried”." Gale Online Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.
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