“The Things They Carried” represents more than their tangible belongings. It also reflects upon the weight they bare, for example their trauma. The item first listed was another example: the weight of the war. I was most surprised by the fact that Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried pictures of a woman who rejected him, Martha, just because they remind him of his personal goal: to survive the war and see her again. He reads these letters every night. Kiowa carries a copy of the New Testament, with religion holding a strong place in his heart. Ted Lavender carried tranquilizers due to his poignant sense of constant fear… until he gets shot in the head. I’m not religious, but Kiowa’s attachment and loyalty to his beliefs is what struck me the most interesting. So many soldiers turn to the loss of their faith when shipped off to war, finding no humanity or godly presence in the acts of war. The fact that Kiowa stuck it out so long is greatly inspiring even to someone without the faith. Personally, I carry very little with me. On a daily basis I always have my phone, wallet, and keys with me. That’s really all I need to feel ready to take on the day. Speaking more of intangible items, the list is much longer. While the weight bearing on me will never compare to that of the characters, it is still heavy. I hold the responsibility of my grades, maintaining my social life, preparing for college, working every single evening, taking care of my very old car, and driving my mother to and from work daily. The ladder most definitely weighs more than my three objects.
O’Brien gives a detailed description of what a true war story is, regardless of whether or not it really happened, throughout this entire chapter. True war stories contain obscenity and evil; no sign of any true morals. They sound too absurd to be believed by any sane person. They aren’t general, for example, “War is hell,”, but instead make your stomach believe more than your mind. True war stories are never about war, he says, but rather instead turns out to be what happened when they were not fighting the “enemy” directly or in face-to-face combat. This leads into a story he tells of a baby water buffalo killed by Rat — no, tortured. He tells this story only after telling us about Lemon, Rat’s best friend. Lemon was playing with Rat under a tree, tossing a smoke grenade back and forth in the joyous sunlight. All of a sudden the sunlight took a hold of Lemon and lifted him off the ground into the tree. Presumably, he had stepped on a mine. As a result, bits and pieces of Curt Lemon were hanging from the tree. O’Brien and Dave Jensen had to ascend up the tree and throw all the bits down. The water buffalo story is what sticks in my head the most. Lemon’s death is expected to some degree as human fatality is a given in these stories. The baby buffalo, on the other hand, was needlessly and mercilessly shot repeatedly, being mauled and ripped apart by Rat’s emotional trauma. O’Brien goes on to explain how war is like a love story. After all the damage is done, and the bullets are shot, everyone starts to love the feeling of living; they start to enjoy the little things like seeing a water buffalo, or seeing the sunset. They start to love the war because of the little things war has to offer, so a true story of war is actually a love story.
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