The Things They Carried Possessions Of Character

The Things They Carried: Possessions Of Character Essay, Research Paper

The Things They Carried: Possessions of Character

“The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, contains many references to

“possessions of character.” Many things Lt. Cross carries were carried by all,

including: military equipment, stationery, photographs, diseases, food, the land

of Vietnam itself, their lives, and even more. O’Brien highlights these along

with special things that Lt. Jimmy Cross carries. He, thus, reveals something

of what Cross values. Belongings reflect his character and thoughts. “Grief,

terror, love, longing–these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own

mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.”

Lt. Jimmy Cross carries letters and a pebble from Martha, a girl whom he

cares about greatly, but she does not share the same emotions for him. He

carries these things to remind him of her, of his feelings for her. At the end

of every day he ritually unwraps them and reads them. These letters are light

in weight, only ten ounces, but prove to be a heavy burden. Above all, he

carries the responsibility for the lives of his men. He is dreaming when

Lavender is shot, and so he blames himself for it. Lavender’s death was

something which “He would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest

of the war.” He does not always pay attention to what is most important, his

men. Lt. Jimmy Cross burns all of Martha’s letters at the end of the story,

trying to forget her, to erase the memory. Still, he carries her in his mind

along with the haunting memory that she was not involved. Martha is just a part

of the technicalities now, he bids her farewell in his mind and decides to rid

himself of the pebble. He is past his days of dreaming and hoping. Everything

that Lt. Cross carries has more physical weight than those letters, but none

were more of a burden to him.

Everything that Jimmy Cross carries bears more physical weight than the

letters. Nothing, however, seems to be nearly as much of a burden. Cross is an

ignorant young man going into the war. Lavender’s death and everything going on

around him opens his eyes to the immediate dangers. What he has, both inside

and outside, have kept him from realizing this. “His obligation was not to be

loved but to lead.”


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