The Things They Carried

The Themes of The Things They Carried
There are many themes in The Things They Carried. The most commonly seen themes in this book are that of physical and emotional burdens. Other themes include truth in storytelling and the constant fear of shamefulness in a soldier. The Things They Carried is a novel about Tim O’Brien’s experiences in the Vietnam War. At the beginning of the book we are told of all the equipment and weapons that they physically carried around with them. By the end of the book we understand the things they emotionally carry and deal with every day for the rest of their lives.
There are many things that the men carried every day in Vietnam. Some of these items include a flak jacket, boots, a helmet, rations, multiple canteens of water, and a various set of tools. Depending on what their individual role as a soldier was they carried different weapons, such as the M-16 assault rifle, the M-60 machine gun, or an M-79 grenade launcher. These weapons ranged from 8.2 pounds to 23 pounds. “Mitchell Sanders carried the PRC-25 radio, a killer, 26 pounds with its battery” (O’Brien 5). Mitchell had a specific job as an RTO (Radio Transmitter Operator). He was the only man in his squad with this item. All of this heavy equipment was a huge physical challenge for these men.
The things the men carried emotionally were heavier than their weapons and equipment. O’Brien witnessed a lot of gruesome deaths during the war, some of which were his friends. Ted Lavender is the first man from their squad to die. On his way back from the bathroom he was shot in the head. Lavender’s superior, Jimmy Cross, carried the blame of Lavender’s death for the rest of his life. The death of O’Brien’s friend Kiowa affected him the most. Kiowa died when a mortar round hit near him and caused him to fall head first through soft ground. O’Brien felt guilty and responsible for his friend’s death. O’Brian is later burdened with more guilt after he killed a young and unsuspecting...