Free Essays - Understanding The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried – An Analysis The Vietnam War was the most technologically advanced war of its time. The combat was more horrific and terrifying in the Vietnam War. There was no front line and no clear way of identifying the enemy because civilians would attack the soldiers as well as the North Vietnamese army. It was an every-man-for-himself, guerrilla war. Because of advances in medicine, more soldiers were able to recover from wounds caused by shrapnel grenades, land mines, concussion grenades, and other weapons. A person could step on a mine and suffer only an amputation of a limb instead of dying. Tim O'Brien survives two gunshot wounds and an infection, which was almost gangrene. In wars past, if gunshot wounds did not kill a person, the infection almost certainly would. The soldiers in The Things They Carried had the task of fighting two Vietnam wars, an internal war and an external war. Externally, the men were fighting the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. Internally, the men were fighting maturity and adulthood. They were desperately trying to remain young through a war that forced them to grow up. Each soldier carried various "weapons" with which to fight the wars. For example, Dave Jensen carried a rabbit's foot, while Jimmy Cross carried a pebble from Martha found "where things came together but also separated." (O'Brien, 9). Lee Strunk carried a slingshot. Henry Dobbins, however, carried two weapons in addition to the regulation army weapons. He carried the nursery rhyme, "A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket, I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it…" which he would sing while sewing stripes on his uniform. He also carried a pair of his girlfriends' pantyhose, which he would wrap around his neck for protection. "He liked putting his nose into the nylon and breathing in the scent of his girlfriend's body; he liked the memories this inspired; he sometimes slept with the stockings up against his face, the way an infant sleeps with a flannel blanket, secure and peaceful." (O'Brien, 129). These weapons allowed these men to dodge Bouncing Betties and gunfire, while enabling them to crawl through dark tunnels and watch friends die everyday. They were able to combat the North Vietnamese, the Viet Cong, leeches, mosquitoes, ringworm, dysentery, gangrene, and wounds from land mines and guns only to wake up the next morning and fight the same enemies day after day.
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