Culture teaches that men must dispense of ridiculous emotions and remain firm, following expected duties. O’Brien develops this theme of the transition from youth to manhood in his short story, “The Things They Carried.” Through the protagonist Jimmy Cross, metaphors of weight, and futile ideas of freedom, O’Brien reveals how society expects young men in transition to adulthood to let go of impractical idealism and dwell instead on the cruel reality of the world.
Initially, O’Brien highlights Cross’s thoughts of love and emotional feelings as he describes the experience of war. Cross constantly thinks about Martha and how much he loves her, and though he senses her uninvolvement, he remains in denial about the fact that Martha feels nothing for him. However, he grasps on to her as his only hope. She represents his connections to a normal life, the world where he can be an average twenty-two year old, not plagued by death and devastation. O’Brien exposes Crosses desires to be pure and unscathed in his hopes that Martha is a virgin. Cross wishes to be untouched by war, destruction, bombs, fear, and the devastation of war, just like Martha. O’Brien illustrates how overcome with emotion Cross is as he daydreams about her “dense, crushing love.” In addition to love, O’Brien describes the tremendous mental burdens the men carry, but are not allowed to express. O’Brien utilizes the metaphor of weight to emphasize the burdens on the boys. The narrator speaks of everything in weight as in the “jungle boots—2.1 pounds”, “steel helmets that weighed five pounds,” and “the letters weighed ten ounces.” This technique further stresses the mental envelopment of these boys in war because they a...
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...aims “there’s definitely a moral here” and continues to bring up the subject throughout the story. O’Brien highlights through Mitchell that the soldiers are only boys and far too young to be exposed to such violence. With the “dispens[ing] of love” and idealism, the reality of war settles into Cross’s mind, forever changing his view the world.
In his short story, “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien demonstrates the depressing change of a soldier from imaginative boy to impersonal man, adolescent to adult, and lover to leader. The terrible burdens pile so high on the young men that “certainly they would never be at a loss for things to carry.” The harsh reality of the world tremendously affects Cross and forever changes him. Through this transition, O’Brien reveals the strict and dismal standards which culture upholds for men to be firm and unwavering.
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