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Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried: The Man Underneath the Helmet Essay

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Ashley Guevara ENGL 2335-01 Professor Benavides December 9, 2013 The Things They Carried: The Man underneath the Helmet The American Flag has always been representative of the United States of America and the freedom it stands for. One could even call it a symbol, not only of freedom, but of the American people. There are men and women who use this to motivate themselves as they are miles away from their families, fghting for the freedom this flag symbolizes. There are many symbols to represent the american soldiers: the Purple Heart, camouflage, and artillery are only a few. Tim The Things They

Carried is a story about the soldiefi humanity, and about how beneath the guns of war there is always the man – he shows us this through giving us symbols throughout the story. Early on in The Things They Carried, we are introduced to the young soldier, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, a boy in love and who can*?‰ seem to think of anything but his love. He holds a picture of this girl, Martha, in his wallet. He even keeps a keepsake of hers, a pebble, with him at all times. inn the march, through the hot days of early April, he carried the pebble in his mouth, turning it with his tongue, tasting sea salt and moisture.

His mind wandered. He had difficulty keeping his attention on the war. On occasion he would yell at his men to spread out the column, to keep their eyes open, but then he would slip away into day dreams, Just pretending, walking barefoot along the Jersey shore, with Martha, carrying 640). For Lieutenant Cross, the pebble he carries in his mouth is a symbol of his love for Martha. It is also a symbol of the young soldiefi humanity. What isn*?‰ more human than a young person being in love with another? Love is said to be sort of intoxicating, which is why Lieutenant Cross can*?‰ seem to focus.

Hefi too wrapped up in his love for Martha to work like any kind of war machine. When going into battle, many soldiers carry with them something that reminds them of their family, heritage, and culture. This is especially important during the Vietnam War, because in the dense Jungles and constant fear, one can really forget just who they are. However, another character, a soldier named Kiowa, braves through the Jungle by carrying with him his family culture and heritage. Abs a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmotherfi distrust of the white man, his grandfathefi old hunting 637).

For Kiowa, his grandmothefi beliefs and his grandfathefi tool are the essence of his humanity. He has strong, courageous grandparents whom not only represent his heritage, but his own being. Through a study done on American Indian veterans and their effect on the aftermaths of war, the author states Abs far as I can determine, religious institutions in this country outside of American Indian societies do not have any back into society, honoring their contributions to our freedom, or making use of their experiences, all of which can be found in American Indian cultures(Gross 401).

Kiowa s representative of all American Indians that were participating in the Vietnam war. In the same way, his grandfathefi weapon and his grandmothefi intuition is also part of what he represents of the american indian community. He is much more man than war, much more so than his role as a soldier. The final symbol I will introduce is not a physical one. It is a symbol that lies within each of these men, and what makes them more human than all can imagine. Many soldiers return from war with a respect of weapons they may not have had before. They know the power of everything they hold, and what any lone man can do with ny kind of weapon.

These men are no different. carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they 640). These men are in awe. They are in awe of all the weapons and artillery they need to carry in order to survive, in order to ultimately kill other men. They are in awe of the war itself. They have a respect for everything they are doing, even though they are aware it could ultimately lead to their demise. They do what they need to do in order to protect and serve America and its people. These are true men, not machines of war. They think and feel Just as everyone else does.

This solidifies their humanity in one full swoop. They are in awe of all they are, and they should be. The author himself felt it right to speak on behalf of all the men who served, which included himself: Fe served a yearlong tour of duty in Vietnam. This time provided a fertile ground for his writing life, it seems; his reputation as a vivid and honest writer has been forged in the fires of war(Toutonghi Par 2). The fact that made himself a character in the story that he wrote in order to honor the men he served with proves the fact that the men that go in and out of these wars are much more human than they can be seen as.

Although they go to war, and sometimes forget themselves for a while, they are still deep down, men and women who are living breathing breakable human beings. The Things They Carried is the story of men in wartime. Men who are preparing to serve the country and possibly lose their lives. Men full of fear and bravery. Men full of despair and hope. Men who love and lose Just as much as people uninvolved in war. These men are the shining example of humanity, Just as means to show us. Although war can change us for a time, it does not change what we are-human. Works Cited Gross, Lawrence W.

Assisting American Indian Veterans Of Iraq And Afghanistan Cope With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Lessons From Vietnam Veterans And The Writings Of Jim Northrup. ” American Indian Quarterly 31. 3 (2007): 373-409. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried. ” Trans. Array The Story and Its Writer.. 8th Compacted Edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 636-649. Print. Toutonghi, Pauls. “Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. ” The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. : Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference. 2005. Date Accessed 26 Nov. 2013.

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