The Things They Carried: Necessities


In The Things They Carried , the characters themselves probably could
not tell you why they carried many of the things they did. The things they
carried can be divided into three basic groups, the things that everyone had to
carry in order to survive, the things that individuals chose to carry, and the
mental burdens that many carried without choice.
The necessities that the men were forced to carry were, for example, P-
38 can openers, pocket knives, matches, C-rations, water, a nylon covered flak
jacket, an M-16 assault rifle, and for Henry Dobbins, an M-60, which weighed 33-
38 pounds including ammunition. All of these items were carried for two simple
reasons, to survive, and to kill which was of course their job.
Next, the things that each individual chose to carry, for many of the
men , these items were things that they personally believed that they could not
live without, but to others would be unnecessary for survival. For First
Lieutenant Jimmy Cross it was pictures of Martha, and also letters from her whom
he loved unrequitedly. Another example and proof of irrelevance to survival was
Ted Lavenders six or seven ounces of dope and nine extra M-79 Grenades which he
was carrying when he was shot in the head. Extras such as these really did
nothing more than give the men a false sense of security, which was probably
necessary to cope with their surroundings.
Last but certainly not least they carried with them love, guilt,
memories, and fear of death. Lieutenant cross, for example carried love, guilt,
and even though he tried never to show it, fear. Tim O\'Brien shows us this in
the passage shortly after the death of Ted Lavender, "He pictured Martha\'s
smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men,
and now Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and could not stop
thinking about her "(8). For these mentally weighted burdens there was no
choice to carry or not to carry, they just had to be carried, some of them for
the rest of their lives.

Category: English