O’Brien begins his work describing the care that Lieutenant Cross has for the letters e carries from a girl named Martha, from back home. O’Brien writes, “In the late afternoon. After a day’s march he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending. ” (960) O’Brien also mentions that Cross would “sometimes taste the envelope flaps, knowing her tongue had been there. ” (960) O’Brien assigns the most importance to Cross by opening the story with this aspect of his personal life.
This Insight is commonly referred to in the story to corroborate the Importance ND mirror the severity of what the other men are dealing with. It Is Important to O’Brien that the reader understand that all of these men who are fighting in the Vietnam War lead a life with their platoon within their role as soldiers, but also the reader needs to be reminded that all of these men have lives back home, whether it be with their parents, wives, children, or girlfriends, a life was left to be led without them.
This introduction is vital to the piece because it develops the theme and allows O’Brien to use It as a foundation, building upon the things men carry from one pacific situation. The plethora of personal possessions that these men carry acts as an extended metaphor. It is human nature for people to turn to religion, or their patriotism in times of need. These times of need are the reason why these men turned to superstition and other beliefs. O’Brien tells us that the things they carried were “largely determined by necessity. (960) The fact that these belongings were necessities tells us that these Items were Indispensable, irreplaceable, Imperative requirements, mandatory for existence. In the context of the story, necessity runs a matt from marijuana and tranquilizer, to photographs, to Bibles, to a human thumb, to a rabbit’s foot. Like religion and patriotism in times of need, the things they carried comforted the soldiers, lessened anxiety and tension, it made them feel more at ease. In fact, it is under these circumstances that rituals or amulets are most often clear.
However, these things do not only accomplish good. Excess emotional baggage results from worrying about odd things. These items may provide a false sense of security but the men carry them because they also provide reassurance they are ongoing all that they can to save themselves in order to safely return to the lives they once led. One prominent example of such emotional baggage is the way Cross anguishes about the state of Marsh’s virginity. Many reasons are presented as to why the men carry the things they do, all of which are partially correct.
However, these explanations are incomplete. The author discusses the men’s psychological distress as well as their physical burdens. Some things, such as pictures, are meant to remind the men that there is another world beyond war and something to go home to. The drugs some carry are used to block out what they are experiencing. Therefore, there are two schools thought among the soldiers. Some carry tools to numb the pain; others need constant reminders of what they left behind to make them feel alive.
O’Brien recognizes how interesting this juxtaposition is. This technique even carries over into other aspects of the story with statements that compare the physical as well as the intangible. The author’s diction uses also gives the reader insight into the nature of the struggle. In another example O’Brien writes “He would slip away into daydreams, Just retesting, walking barefoot along the Jersey shore, with Martha, carrying nothing. ” To carry means to move while supporting.
The men were unable to successfully support their feelings, which is why “they would remove their helmets and flank jackets, walking bare, which was dangerous but which helped ease the strain. ” (967) The men were literally unable to support much of what they needed due to environmental pressures, but they were always attempting to lose the metaphorical baggage by burning the things that tied them to it. Not only is controlling their Houghton difficult, but in a warlike situation failure to achieve this delicate mental balance could lead to their undoing.
This fact is demonstrated in the futile attempt Cross makes to give his memories up. The things they carry are metaphors for something greater. For this reason there is constant inner conflict. After O’Brien wrote the book, he was quoted as saying, “You want my opinion, there’s a definite moral here. ” The absurdity of the situation is presented by the way in which they attempt to lighten their loads. The struggle is ironic in this setting because of the internal quality of war that is discussed.