The Vietnam War started because of the communism rule of Vietnam that wanted to spread and take over Southeastern Asia which would result in an end to the French expansion to Southeastern Asia. America got involved in the war in order to prevent that from happening. The war was nearly 20 years long, beginning in the year 1955 and ending in 1975.
Many soldiers were teenage boys like Bob Kiley, Curt Lemon, Kiowa, Tim O’Brien himself and many more who had to give up their fresh and young lives in order to go and serve their country. It was a devastating war that took the lives of an estimated 3 million both the Vietnam and American sides.
Many of the soldiers have suffered and are suffering from PTSD which has basically ruined and is ruining their marriages and lives. Just imagine the amounts of burden and unsightly scenes not only the soldiers, but also the civilians had to do and see throughout the war. If you had to suddenly fight in a war at a young age, which characters from the book do you think you would most resemble?
The first claim that was interpreted in the story was about how the young soldiers had so much emotional and physical burden from the first war they were fighting in and how it slowly changes them. The book “The Things They Carried” is written by Tim O’Brien and he states in the first chapter all the things the soldiers had to carry around through rainstorms and sunshine. Many pounds of guns, grenades, equipment and other necessities were carried around (Pg. 1-21).
This is important because later on in the story the things that they carry are almost completely different. The things were interpreted to me as everything they are stated to be. All of the guns, grenades, and ammunition are all possibly expressed as the fears, horror and terror that the young soldiers were feeling. The photos that “almost everyone humped …” (pg. 3) was the beloved ones that they had to leave back home in America.
The ones that give them the reason to keep fighting and finish the war to go back home alive. “Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent ….” (pg. 2) These are the things that the young soldiers value personally and are what they rely on during their times at war. All of the things they carry whether it is as physical as guns, photos, dope, and pantyhose or whether it is as emotional as fear, horror, love and personal beliefs they all share the same amount of burden and joy to the soldiers.
“They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die.” (pg. 20) Just as the “things” that each soldier carries, each soldier is a burden and a person they could rely on to one another. Everyone fighting in the war are similar in age, where everyone could be a reliable big brother for the weaker and younger ones to learn from or be a younger brother that cheers up the atmosphere when it’s down. It’s a situation where everyone grows fond of each other through their hardships, so if one man dies, it could be emotional and turn into something that they could learn from.
In a portion of chapter 1 Ted Lavender is shot in the head by a sniper on the way back from urinating in the forest. Finding this out, Jimmy Cross is delusional and thinks Lavender is dead because he was slacking off, so he decides to burn all of Martha’s letters and photos and firmly makes a decision to properly perform his duties.
I think this is a point in the story for Jimmy Cross where he changes his point of view of the war and learns that his responsibilities as Lieutenant are much greater than looking at photos and letters from a girl that doesn’t even love him back. Jimmy Cross learns this lesson from Ted Lavender’s death. Lavender took doses of dope regularly to help with his anxiety, but died because he couldn’t adapt to the war. Lavender passed helping Cross adapt to his job as Lieutenant.
I think that all the characters who died, died because they weren’t able to adapt to the life of war and helped their comrades to realization and adapt even if they seemed like they didn’t serve a purpose at their death. Curt Lemon was too childish, naïve and immature for the war, even to his last moment he was fooling around with Kiley. However, from Lemon’s death Kiley learned and adapted from that situation.
The second claim that was interpreted was how the Vietnam War had damaged all the soldiers and civilians, especially the young ones. In the story there was a little Vietnam girl that was continuously dancing in front of her house that contained her dead and badly burned family. (pg. 129-130)
During the duration of the war it is certain that it wasn’t just this girl’s family that was found dead. Some families would be found entirely dead or very severely injured. It represents all of those individuals that are without families after the war. The families waiting for their sons and husbands to come back may also never have them returned to them.
Many of the young civilians that go through the war, have no clue on why the war is happening and why their families are killed. Which can be extremely traumatic to them leading them to develop extreme anxiety, depression or causing them to keep pondering on the memories also develop PTSD.
There is a Vietnam War song from the point of view of the wives and children called Daddy Won’t Be Home Anymore by Dolly Parton. One of the lyrics say “I think of all the happy times we’ll never see again. Then I break down and start to cry, the children ask what for, I can’t find a way to tell them that Daddy won’t be home anymore.”
It just states how the children are too young to know that there is barely a chance that their dads will be coming home and just believe in what they’re told like “daddy will be back to see you soon”. The song isn’t just meant for the wives and children waiting home, it’s also the mothers waiting for their sons, or the soldiers waiting to end the war and go back to their beloved homes. All the characters that have passed in the story are evidence that so many families were torn apart and so many families grew up with no dads or sons.
The last claim that was interpreted was the aftermath and how the war affected many people’s lives. In a small portion of the chapter “Speaking of Courage” (pg.145-146) Bowker is driving into a fast-food drive-thru and he doesn’t know how to order and later he doesn’t have anyone to talk to so he tries to talk to the person on the intercom but gives up in the end. This shows how long he has been at war and how this war has taken a toll on part of his life.
When he joined the war he was in his late teen years and when he had finished the war, he was in his late 30’s. The only thing he had known to do was shoot guns and throw grenades, eat food out of cans. Now that the war is over, he goes to live his life, but so many things have changed since he was gone.
He doesn’t have anyone to teach him the basics and doesn’t have anyone to tell his stories to. This is how many of the soldiers feel after they have ended the war and come back to everyday life. Unable to communicate and feeling useless even though he had just come back as a hero.