Symbols Of The Vietnam War In 'The Things They Carried'

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The Loss of Innocence in Vietnam “The Things They Carried” is a story about the Vietnam war, in the simplest of terms. It focuses on one particular team of soldiers and their experiences during the war. O’Brien’s writing is complex and has many layers. In the story, O’Brien lists the items the soldiers physically carry in a stark comparison to the things they carry mentally throughout the war. The author uses symbolism, metaphors, and imagery to show the soldiers loss of innocence and the effects of war on an individual. One of the most striking events of the story is the death of Ted Lavender. O’Brien mentions Lavenders death multiple times throughout the story. He uses the repetition of Lavenders death as a symbol of how the soldiers constantly carried the weight of the event within themselves. It particularly haunts Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who feels personally responsible for what happened. When describing how Cross felt O’Brien writes,” ...this was something he would have to carry like a stone (O’Brien 420) This shows the weight of death not only on the ones that witness it, but on everyone it affects. Kiowa goes over and over what he saw, retelling the story multiple times. Later, Kiowa thinks about how he is, “pleased to be alive”, and feels guilty for not feeling more sorrow for Lavender. (O’Brien 425) He says it was “not like the movies” showing the loss of another piece of innocence. (O’Brien 420) When Lavender dies, the other soldiers strip his body of “all the heavy things”. (O’Brien 420) The removal of heavy things from Lavender’s body is a metaphor. When you die all your worries, stresses and fears are gone. Throughout the story O’Brien describes Lavender as scared, so when he dies he no longer has to carry the weight of his fear. When they remove his ammo and canteen the soldiers are removing his worldly burdens and taking them on

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