Free Things They Carried Essays: Instinct

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Human Instinct in The Things They Carried

Fear is a strong emotion that is constantly haunting the minds of the men in Tim O'Brien's book, The Things They Carried. Fear is handled by different men in different ways. However, through the characters of Dave Jenson and Lee Struck in "Enemies" and "Friends," two opposing reactions can be seen. HCAL defines cultural studies as something that can "...either create community or cause division and alienation"(240). By using cultural studies it is possible to analyze these two stories to understand why these two men react differently to he same emotion under different circumstances.

In "Enemies," Jenson and Struck have a fight over a missing jackknife which evolves from a broken nose to a broken mind. The two men become enemies; not only are they faced with the fear of war, but also of the fear of each other. Jenson was affected the most by this. He began to loose his sanity watching both the enemy lines and his own men trusting no one. In an attempt to justify the fight with Struck, he breaks his own nose along with yelling and shooting off rounds of ammunition. The fear that built up inside of Jenson causes him to be alienated from the rest of the Army.

Unlike the prior story, in "Friends," fear helps to bring Jenson and Struck closer together. They are both afraid of returning from the war dismembered in some fashion. To prevent this, the men form a agreement that if one of them is hurt in such a way, that the other would kill them. Because of this pact, the men are united with a common trust. This helps to subside the fear and allow them to not be as scared of the war.

These two stories show how fear can cause the bond of friendship and community or hatred which resulted in alienation. The two character, Lee Strunk and Dave Jenson, show how a mans reaction to fear can affect him. In the story "Enemies," Jenson slowly begins to isolate himself as a way to keep away from Strunk. He views everyone as the enemy making his foxholes near the perimeter and always keeping his back covered. This constant fear ate way at Jenson until he finally lost his sanity. In "Friends," Jenson and Strunk take deal with fear in a more positive way.
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