In the beginning, there is a casual tone that eases the reader into the sensitive subject of war. The first paragraph describes the letters that a young lieutenant, Jimmy Cross, carries with him from a girl he has unrequited love for. O’Brien inserts what you would initially read as insignificant information such as, “The letter weighed ten ounces,” but throughout the story this starts to connect the power behind what these men carried. The objects start as “necessities” such as “pocket knives,” and “ mosquito repellant” as each character starts to develop based on his particular belongings. Dave Jensen carries a “toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap,” while Ted Lavender carried “tranquilizers” and “six or seven ounces of premium dope” (1016). It is noticed immediately how each man v...
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...illed. Looking at the items they carried, one would be able to see how he valued his life. This value became less and less important and the priority shifted from remembering their individuality to simply surviving each day.
O’Brien was a man that fought in Vietnam himself. His background and personal experience helped him develop an intricate level of literary with symbolism and imagery. He gave his audience a glimpse into a time when war demanded that boys be pulled from their lives and dropped into an alternate reality they could never be properly prepared for. To ease their pain and suffering they took with them all they could in the hopes of lasting long enough to return home. O’Brien lived the lives of the men he writes about from the Vietnam War and uses this to create a true understanding of the emotional and physical struggles painted in this short story.
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