An analysis of the soldier’s possessions in
“The Things They Carried”
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, is written literally as a list of items that the fictional soldiers of Alpha Company carry in Vietnam, and the approximate weights of those items. While this description would initially imply the story to be very simplistic or dry, the true value and power behind the story lies in how those physical items act as symbolic representations. These serve as the perfect medium to convey each of the soldier’s complex, unique personalities and mentalities, and what they have in common despite their differences.
In general, each soldier carries their required equipment of weapons, ammunition, body armor, rations, water, and related supplies. Although these differ from person to person depending on rank, job specialty, and mission, what really gives us the first impressions of each soldiers personalities is what they carry “out of necessity”, or what each soldier feel is necessary unique to them, such as Ted Lavender and his supply of tranquilizers and marijuana, or Kiowa with the bible that his father had given him. The items carried out of necessity give the basic introduction to each character, and later become a foundation which each characters complexity is built upon.
The items the soldiers carry are not only meant to be viewed literally, but also symbolically. The photos and personal memento’s each soldier carries serves to bridge the divide of distance between their homes and loved ones, and make them feel closer to what they cherish and left behind. The religious or “good luck” items they carry, such as Lieutenant Cross’s pebble from Martha, Dave Jensen’s rabbit foot, or Kiowa’s bible also help to facilitate a more intimate depth and relatable understanding between the reader and the characters. It shows a glimpse of what the men really are underneath their warrior façade; scared and lonely young men desperately seeking some form of comfort and...