The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

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The woman that Cross is in love with is named Martha. She's barely a junior from Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. Although he is madly in love with her, Martha doesn't return the feelings back for him. This one-sided love causes him to ponder and lose focus of what is really important, keeping himself and his troops alive and well. As he is lying in his foxhole, he looks at pictures of Martha; he can't help to feel, "More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her…" As shown, he just wants to be with her and to share a love with her. Over and over again, he would think about her; sometimes in foxholes, sometimes while marching, even at times of danger. This lack of focus on the real dilemma, their situation in the war, will be a costly one.
His love for Martha was unhealthy and almost obsessive. He still remembers clearly "touching that left knee" of Martha's. Even out in the field he still reminisces how her knee felt. During a mission to destroy some tunnels, Cross imagines the tunnel collapsing on him and Martha. He also wonders if she is still a virgin or not and wonders why her letter are signed "love". This distraction and incompetence of himself lead to the death of one of their fellow soldiers, Ted Lavender. He has been shot and killed, partly because of Cross' lack of focus on the situation. He keeps to himself as he blames the incident on only himself. Shockingly, as they were waiting for a chopper to take his body away, he digs a foxhole. While sitting in the hole, crying, he was also thinking of "…Martha's smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men…" at the same time. This abnormal love for Martha has defected his ability to perform his duties as a leader. Martha has possessed him so much that even "without willing it, he was thinking about Martha." This shows that he has lost control on where and when is the right time to think about things like that.
Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was never the military type. He still wonders why he joined. His rank as lieutenant seems unreal. He never truly demonstrates leadership. He separates himself from the rest of the Alpha Company as he thinks about Martha.

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He uses his love for Martha as an escape to war, but he fails to realize that the love for between them was never real.
By the time he realizes what loving Martha has gotten him into, it was already too late. On the morning after Ted Lavender's death, he decided to try to stop his mad love for Martha. He burns and buries Martha's letters and the photographs of her. Even after burning them, he could still imagine Martha and he still remembers what was in the letters. As he thinks about her more, he begins to hate her. Even as he really loves her, he begins to hate her; it was a "hating kind of love." He told himself to stop thinking her. He was "determined to perform his duties firmly and without negligence." Firmly, leading the group, he puts leadership in front of love.
Many years after the war, Cross paid a visit to Tim O'Brien. While they were talking about looking through pictures, they came across a picture of Ted Lavender. When Cross saw that picture he "rubbed his eye and said he'd never forgiven himself for Lavender's death." Even after many years have past he still remembers about him and what he was like, loving Martha. Because of this he will never be able to forget what happened.
From what we can see, Jimmy Cross is too hurt and broken by his actions of loving Martha obsessively that we would think that he wouldn't be able to love her again. But after spending the entire day with Martha at a college reunion, he begins to admit to Tim O'Brien that he loves her again. This makes us wonder if he is truly sorry for what happened before. Thought he still remembers and feels sorry for what happened to Ted Lavender, he is going back to loving her which made that happen. As Cross is leaving, O'Brien asks if he can write a paper on their former lieutenant. After consideration, he agreed and told him to put good words on him but not to "mention anything about-." Automatically O'Brien agrees. Cross is implying to not add anything about his love for Martha or not to add anything about Ted Lavender. He has recovered enough to tell his close friend about his past, but he is not strong enough to let everyone know, possibly for the sake of the love between him and Martha.
Love and war, they are two of life's most puzzling ideas. What is love? Why go into war? Like oil and vinegar, love and war don't mix. Unfortunately for Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, he had both. He was stuck in-between love and war and he had to make a choice. Either choice he makes he will lose something close to him; his brotherly soldiers or the love of his life. The choice wasn't an easy one but he made the choice he felt was right, the lives of his soldiers. Now he lives on, wondering what it could've been like if he made the choice sooner, wondering what regrets he could've taken back.
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