The Vietnam War In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a collection of essays, all centered on anecdotes of American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The seemingly straightforward recollections slowly reveal dense layers of personal and metaphorical meanings upon closer inspection, with the exploration of the characters’ emotions and the underlying motif of love creating the opportunity to trace how war changes a person in the realm of his emotions. The Vietnam warfare acts as a catalyst for all of the unsettling changes in the soldiers’ minds, raising the question whether the battlefield is actively responsible for this result or merely accelerating the inevitable manifestation of these personal issues, inherent in every person. In the collection of essays…show more content…
The first mention of love is in “The Things They Carried,” when Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’ strong infatuation with Martha is revealed. His attitude seems innocent enough as he “want[s] Martha to love him as he loved her” (1). The reciprocity of this pure emotion, illustrated by the repetition of “love,” is quickly shot down as the officer is portrayed as obsessed with Martha’s rejection of him rather than simply in love. One of the most striking moments that interweaves the violent nature of war with his memories of the girl is presented in his desire to “carr[y] her up the stairs to her room and t[ie] her to the bed and [touch] that left knee all night long” (4). The run-on structure of the sentence conveys the unhealthy excitement of a man who plays this moment over and over again in his mind. In the context of war, such an act does not seem too extreme of harmful, but from a human standpoint it is still unthinkable. The character’s desensitization at the hands of the violence of Vietnam bleeds into his universal judgment of right and wrong, resulting in his reminiscence of Martha’s affections taking on a disquieting
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