Notes on Objects & Places from The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
This section contains 400 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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The Things They Carried Objects/Places

The things they carry: Everything they carry is precious in some way--it has to be, or they wouldn't carry it, because many of them already carry at least twenty pounds worth of gear. What they carry is decided by their fear (some of them carry more ammunition than others) and by their homesickness or desperate need for distraction from the war (Rat Kiley carries comic books, and Jimmy Cross carries pictures of Martha). Some of them carry good luck charms. They all seem to know the weight of each thing they carry, because each thing is a necessary part of them, for one reason or another.

Pebble : Jimmy Cross carries the pebble, which he received from Martha, under his tongue. Its presence distracts him from his soldierly duties. Martha wrote that the pebble symbolized her feelings toward him, since she found it on the shore, right where things come together and also separate. He loves her, even though he doesn't really understand what she means.

Tip Top Lodge: Tim goes to the lodge when he is trying to decide whether or not to flee to Canada. The owner of the lodge, Elroy Berdahl, gives Tim every chance he can to cross the border secretly, but Tim can't make himself do it. It is a turning point for him: he realizes that he would rather die than stand up for what he believes in, if what he believes in is not accepted by his family and friends.

Song Tra Bong: A river in Vietnam that seems to symbolize the power and savagery of the country. Mary Anne Bell disappears along the river, when her hunger for life in the jungle consumes her. Kiowa gets swallowed up by the muck on the river bank. The river seems to symbolize the war itself: violent, unforgiving, sometimes beautiful, and deadly.

Silver Star: Norman Bowker, in Tim's story, almost won the Silver Star--a medal for bravery--but was not quite brave enough. He left his friend Kiowa in the mud of the river bank, because the smell of the river was too disgusting for him to bear. When he returns home to America, he thinks about the Silver Star, and what it represents, and what bravery really means. He finds he cannot explain it to anyone, and getting or losing medals seems pointless when he thinks about Kiowa dying in that field.

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