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In the short story “The Things They Carried,” written by Tim O’Brien, there is a lot of symbolism in each specific object that was mentioned. According to Dictionary. Com, a symbolism is the practice of representing things by symbols, or of Investing things with a symbolic meaning or character. A symbol Is something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.
The things each soldier carried defined each individual soldier. The story was very detailed in the objects the soldiers carried which tied into the emotional things the soldiers carried. Most of the items each soldier had were very important for survival. “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. ” (Ernie 596) They had their water, medical gear, foods, and most importantly weapons. Each soldier was locked and loaded with a specific war Item.
For example, Henry Dobbins, being the big guy, automatically made him the gunner, which led him to carry the 26 pounds of machinery called the M-60. The medic, Rat Killed, was in charge of carrying the deiced gear, including morphine, plasma, malaria tablets and surgical tape. The radio and telephone operator, Mitchell Sanders was in charge of carrying the PRE-25 Radio. This Is just some of the things that were specialized to an individual according to their size or skill. But the soldiers also carried things that weren’t so necessary, yet they would bring It along anyways for certain reasons.
Things They Carried Summary
The lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters, two photos, and a pebble sent to him by a woman named Martha. His decision to carry these items represented how much Martha meant to Cross. These objects symbolize his love for Martha because throughout the story, he often fantasize about her instead of leading his soldiers. For example, In the story he fantasize about when he went to the movies with her, touched her knee, and was sadly rejected. Lieutenant Cross remembered touching that left knee.
A dark theater, he remembered, and the movie was Bonnie and Clyde, and Martha wore a tweed skirt, and during the final scene, when he touched her knee, she turned and looked at him in a sad, sober way that made him pull his hand back, but he would always remember that feel of the tweed skirt and the knee uneaten it and the sound of the gunfire that killed Bonnie and Clyde, how embarrassing It was, how slow and oppressive. (O’Brien 597) Martha however didn’t seem to have this same love for Cross, because none of the letters she sent him acknowledged the fact that he was in war.
Due to his lack of attention to his soldiers and multiple daydreams of Martha, this showed that he wasn’t ready to be a leader, but was probably forced to his position because he was drafted. He didn’t have the mindset to be a successful leader, he was still young, and in love. His constant daydreams showed how mesmerism’s Cross Is over this woman, and how unfocused The big soldier, Henry Dobbins, carried extra rations of food. This was because he was a big guy, and had a fast metabolism, and much of his food would be processed quicker than the others. He would also carry a panty hose around his neck.
This was a way of him to boast and show off that he had a girl at home and was sexually active on his breaks. A soldier named Ted Lavender was the guy who carried tranquilizer, 6-7 ounces of dope, and extra rounds of ammo. This symbolized that he was frightened by the reality of war. He would smoke the dope and take the tranquilizer to calm his nerves. He wasn’t in the war by choice, most of the soldiers weren’t. He felt safer by carrying extra amounts of ammunition. All of the soldiers needed a sense of security, something to make them feel that everything was okay, even though they were in the Jungle.
The radio and telephone operator (ROOT) named Mitchell Sanders carried condoms. This was an odd item to carry, however, came in handy when it would rain, to keep the guns from getting wet. He carried brass knuckles, which was very interesting because it showed how even in a time of war with plenty of ammo and weapons, he was thinking of last resort situations. In the case of war, there seems no need to wear brass knuckles when the soldiers carry bazookas, grenades, and machine guns. But his mentality to having brass knuckles was so that he could have a sense of security.
If he were to ever run out of ammo, and had to go one on one with an enemy, he would have an advantage. So basically, the brass knuckles symbolized safety. All the soldiers needed a sense of security. A soldier similar was Lee Struck. He carried a sling shot. This too gave him the feeling of protection. As silly as it may have seemed to have a sling shot when other people had guns, it worked for Struck. A soldier similar to Sanders and Struck thoughts was Kiowa. He too had a last resort weapon, a hatchet. He would have it to feel safe in case of an emergency, but the reality was that he probably never even used it.
The point of carrying it wasn’t for use, but simply for a sense of security. Kiowa said some things in the text after someone got shot, that showed a sense of how the soldiers minds were. “Kiowa, who saw it happen, said it was like watching a rock fall, or a big sandbag or something? just boom, then down?not like the movies where the dead guy rolls around and does Nancy spins and goes ass over teakettle?not like that, Kiowa said, the poor bastard just flat-buck fell. Boom. Down. Nothing else. ” (O’Brien 598) By this text, we can see that the soldiers were in a horrible reality.
Not like things in movies, but real hard times in war. The medic Rat Killed carried his medical gear, and on top of that comic books and a liquor drink named Brandy. The fact that he carried comic books showed a couple of things. It showed that he was still a little kid. The draft caused many teenage boys who weren’t ready to grow up and be men to have no choice but to be an adult. The books also gave Killed a sense of hope. This was because comic books have super heroes, who never die. To him, he was a hero for the United States, which in a way meant he couldn’t die.
It made him feel safe. Also, the Brandy drink made him feel grown up. At the time, this was a drink only real men drank, older men. So by him having this, it proved that Killed was a man. One of the oddest items that were carried was by a soldier named Norman Booker. Along with a diary, he would carry a thumb. Now, the diary was pretty on during the war. However, the thumb had a sick representation. It was a thumb cut if from a dead enemy’s hand. A thumb symbolizes humanity, because thumbs are something unique that only humans have.
By chopping off the thumb of another person, this action meant that there was no humanity at war, no rules, no morals, Just life and death. According to the text, the following happened when Mitchell cut off the thumb; You want my opinion, Mitchell Sanders said, there’s a definite moral here. He put his hand on the dead boys wrist. He was quiet for a time, as if counting a pulse, then he patted the stomach, almost affectionately, and used Kiosk’s hunting hatchet to remove the thumb. Henry Dobbins asked what the moral was. Moral? You know. Moral.
Sanders wrapped the thumb in toilet paper and handed it across to Norman Booker. There was no blood. Smiling, he kicked the boys head, watched the flies scatter, and said, It’s like with that old TV show?paladin. Have gun, will travel. Henry Dobbins thought about it. Yeah, well, he finally said. I don’t see no moral. There it is, man. Buck off. (O’Brien 601) There were no morals. This thumb was a reminder to Booker that there were only two choices in war, to live, or to die. And this motivated him to stay alive and keep on humping through, which means to carry on.
One of the most unique symbolisms in the story was towards the end, which was a Silver Bird.. To the soldiers, whenever injuries were to occur, there would be a silver plane that would come and rescue the soldier and take them to the hospital. This led to freedom, once the soldier was done at the hospital, they would go on home and be free. This was what all the soldiers wanted to do, Just go back home to their families. Many of the soldiers envisioned themselves on this Silver Bird, flying with no worries of being shot, no worries of suffering through the blazing sun, and no worries of not seeing their loved ones.
In all, “The Things They Carried” is about soldiers who would carry symbolic objects, some were necessities, however there were a lot of things that weren’t so necessary, yet they would carry it along anyways. In this story, much was learned about each individual soldier simply by the possessions they would hold on to. The things the soldiers carried defined each individual soldier in a specific way.