The Things They Carried

In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” the story talks about the burdens a platoon of soldiers sent to Vietnam must carry. Among the burdens are physical objects such as guns, food, lucky charms, keepsakes and other necessities a man needs when he knows he’ll probably die. More importantly they carry much heavier things that are more abstract and still more physical to the mind. “They carried the land itself – Vietnam, the place, the soil – a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity…” (O’Brien 602). As Tuan would describe it, they became intimate with the land itself, they became one with and they were the land. They were part of its world, its life, its jungles and geography. They were Vietnam.
“Intimate occasions are often those on which we become passive and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, exposed to the caress and sting of new experience.” (Tuan 137). The troops in Lieutenant Jimmy Cross‘s Alpha Company became vulnerable to everything Vietnam could throw at them. They began to live the Viet life, a war life that had no meaning and yet still a part of it all. They did what they did, no questions asked and they did it without thinking. They would “burn villages and leave others, they would kill some and leave some and they were just too into it all. They were exposed to the elements and it changed them, the things they carried are what kept them sane. The little reminders of home or hobby’s they tried to continue during the war. Any trace of their character or personality was all they needed to carry to stay sane. When you get too intimate with a place, you lose yourself. But there’s always something in that place that reminds you of you and that’s what keeps you going for a time and a time after.

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