The Theme Of Fatigue In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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Flustering and Blushing often come about in moments of awkwardness or self-consciousness. Strong emotions such as shame and embarrassment can influence actions. Altering not only insignificant details, but life-changing decisions. Throughout the novel, The Things They Carried, the theme of the power of shame and embarrassment is illustrated through the characters of Tim O’Brien, Norman Bowker, and Lt. Jimmy Cross. Tim O’Brien, the character and the author both change their actions and personality due to moments of humiliation or remorse. After receiving an unhappy letter from Norman Bowker about a version of “Speaking of Courage” without Kiowa’s death along the Song Tra Bong, he edits this chapter to include this death (153-154). He is ashamed…show more content…
Jimmy Cross feels ashamed of every death that is caused by the absence of quality leadership on his part. When Ted Lavender dies O’Brien writes that Cross, “ . . . felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war” (16). Death deeply affects how he leads his men and also his love life after the war. By being ashamed of this moment, he never ends up with Martha and is not mentioned to have a wife after the war. After this event he makes the rules of the squadron more strict to try to avoid unnecessary out-of-combat casualties. Jimmy also burns the pictures he has of Martha to try to lessen the shame he feels for letting his friends death occur but he knows that, “You can’t burn the blame” (22). If he could take away the blame of his death, he would not learn the importance of humility and accepting the ugly truth of the situation. Although, shouldering the blame of the death of a friend can weigh heavily on someone’s life, accepting responsibility for it can exempt one’s life from shame. When Kiowa’s death occurs, O’Brien writes that Jimmy, “ . . . knew for a fact that he had made a mistake setting up there. The order had come from higher, true, but still he should’ve exercised some field discretion” (157). Blame is not placed on those who give out the higher order to set up camp there, but on each individual that
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