During the First World War women played a very vital role, either directly as nurses or as forms of comfort and hope (Brose 109). However, as the fighting dragged on countless men lost their lives and saw the unspeakable horrors of trench warfare, attitudes toward women changed. Men were angry that their wives were home living ‘comfortably’ while they suffered, and the nurses saw them broken and vulnerable (Brose 113). Decades later, the women of the 1960s were rebelling against the typical feminine roles of their mothers and grandmothers, but the perception in the minds of the men at war was generally unchanged from those of the soldiers in the past. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brian shows this same transition in emotions—from positive to negative—views, during the Vietnam War by following a platoon of soldiers through the jungle.
There are several occasions O’Brian mentions the solace women bring to the men while at war. He informs his readers that “Henry Dobbins carried his girlfriend’s panty hose wrapped around his neck as a comforter” (O’Brian n.pag.). He talks about the men that “shoot off their own toes and fingers,” and how envied they are because they get to leave Hell to be with geisha nurses in Japan (O’Brian n.pag.). They dream of the “smiling stewardesses” delivering them to safety (O’Brian n.pag.). These references tell the audience that the main character, Lt. Cross, is not alone in using women as a remedy from the terrible situation of battle.