THE THINGS THEY CARRIED (chapter 1) & LOVE (chapter 2)
By describing the things they carried, we get to know the different characters of the soldiers who are in the Vietnam War.
The items are used by the soldiers to keep them connected to their homes and loved ones.
- Lieutenant Jimmy Cross: He is the main character; he is the only character of whom we get to know his past and his thoughts. He thinks a lot of Martha. He carries her letters and her photo’s. His love for her is very strong even when he knows that she doesn’t feel the same for him. He also blames the death of Lavender to his love for Martha. He feels guilty because he was dreaming in stead of taking care of his men while they trusted him to make the right decisions. He doesn’t want to break their trust so a day later he burns the letters of Martha. He thinks that he can forget about her now. After that his attitude against his troop changes. He gets harder, he realises that his obligation was “not to be loved but to lead." In the second chapter, a long time after the war, he’s still thinking about Martha.
We don’t really get to know the rest of the characters. We only get to know them by the things they’re carrying.
- Kiowa: He’s a devout Baptist and he carries an illustrated New Testament. He’d like to feel sad about the death of Lavender like Cross, but all he can think about is the way Lavender died: Boom-down and he’s glad that he’s still alive.
- Martha: We get to know her by the thoughts of Jimmy and the letters she writes to him. Jimmy is glad that she doesn’t write about the war, she stays outside it. She’s the home where he’ll go back to after the war.
- Henry Dobbins: He’s a big man, who carries a lot of extra food and his girlfriends’ pantyhose as a comforter.
- Ted Lavender: He’s a scared man and he takes a lot of tranquilizers. He got shot outside Than Khe. He was carrying six or seven ounces of dope and nine extra M-79 Grenades.
- Dave Jensen: He practices field hygiene and carries toothbrushes
- Rat Kiley: He carries comic books and he has a sense of humour.
- Mitchell Sanders, an RTO (Railway Transportation Officer)
They all have certain things in common, like the longing to go home, but the fear to be a coward.
The first chapter is told by an ‘outsider’. When we look further in the book, the other chapters are told by a personal speaker.
When we read ‘Love’, we get to know that the writer of the book was also in the Vietnamese War, the writer and Lieutenant Jimmy Cross are friends.
If you read the first character, you don’t ‘feel’ that the writer is one of them, that he is a soldier in the war. He doesn’t give his opinion about the other soldiers, he doesn’t speak about his feelings. The only way that we can see that he feels sorry for lavender is that he writes about it. He doesn’t write about any other happenings.
The things they carried can be divided into three basic groups, the things that everyone had to carry in order to survive (weapons, poncho,…), the things that individuals chose to carry (letters, NT, toothbrushes,…) and the mental burdens that many carried without choice (love, grief, fear,…).
Every piece starts with a summation of things that they all carry, even when they do it on a different way.