Good Essay About "The Things They Carried" By Tim O'brien
The major theme in the story "The Things They Carried" is the theme of initiation. It is a part of young man's life when he accepts life and as it is, when he stops seeing things through the romantic lenses. The main character of the story, Jimmy Cross passes through this initiation under the war circumstances, far away from his home, family, and all the things that are familiar to him. The initiation of Jimmy Cross is when he realizes that due to his distraction and romantic daydreaming, his fellow soldier dies. It might be said that the things that they carried were a difficult burden for young boys who went in war, but it was their reality and as soon as they realized that the only thing that matters is to stay alive, the sooner they will pass the threshold of boyhood and enter the world of manhood.
Jimmy Cross meticulously lists the entire burden that young soldiers have to carry, stating all of the necessities depending of the type of their mission. However, one can notice between the lines the fear from the unknown, the fear from constant anticipation of death. The harsh reality could be softened with the things such as letters from the girl called Martha. The letters served as a reminder of a life that was left behind. Even though Jimmy Cross is aware that they are not love letters, he anyway imagines that they are and that she loves him. It was an escape from his reality. The other soldiers also carried things that did not need, but things that they believed that carry certain luck and keep them safe from death. The taste of pebble that Jimmy Cross received from Martha as a good-luck charm made him forget where he was, what his job is, and that he is responsible for the lives of his men.
However, due to his distraction a life is lost. It is the life of a young soldier, Ted Lavander. He is dead, and that is the reality. It is the moment when Jimmy Cross realizes that the romantic daydreaming about Martha who is nothing but a dream will not help him to escape from the reality that surrounds him. The moment when he passes the threshold from boyhood to manhood is when he burns all the letters and pictures of Martha. In addition to this, the quilt becomes the thing that is weightless but a difficult burden on the back of the young Lieutenant Cross. The death of Ted Lavander is the trigger that brings back Cross from romantic daydreaming into the horror of war and a breaking point in his initiation. Until then, Cross managed to escape from reality by imagining Martha and their love, even though he was subconsciously aware that it is not real. The romantic idealization of their relationships was something that made him survive the war and everything that the carries, the death that spread around them like an infection and disease, the smell of burned houses, animals, and people. The night when he tore up all the strings with the past life and faced reality was the night when he openly admitted himself that he is afraid. The long and sincere cry can be interpreted as a cleanings of Jimmy's mind and emotions.
The process of initiation is different for everyone, but some things that all young man carry when thinking and expecting from a war include the stories of bravery and heroism. However, when the terror of the war stares at them from a deep and dense jungle they realize that the only thing that matters is to stay alive. All the stories from their boyhood about the heroic deeds of they ideals scatter like water drops. The reality is that they "they were too frightened to be cowards" (O'Brien 2). The ability to live with the physical and emotional burden of a war is mastery. They frequently dreamed about shooting themselves so that they could return home. One would never openly admit about this possibility, but at night when they face with their demons, they think about this possibility and admire the ones who had the strength to do it.
The process of initiation is determined by circumstances. Undoubtedly, these young men chose the difficult path, and after this experience nothing will remain the same. Everything changes in a war. The things that seemed important in the past life become trivial and ridiculous. Stripped from the strings of the society they pass the process of initiation by experiencing the emotions in their original form. They are boys forced to become man too early. Every sense is sharpened in a war, including fear, love, hate The notion that it is not considered a shame to be frightened, hungry, and tired is something that they silently share in common. The sooner they realize that no matter how terrible, ugly, and repulsive the reality is, the sooner they will manage to help each other and pass the milestone of boyhood.
O'Brien, Tim. "The Things They Carried"