‘The Things they Carried” by Tim O’brien

Mary Anne, Martha, and Linda are the three main female characters in the novel "The Things they Carried." ( On writing short stories ). Linda is a positive character in the novel but also a very sad one. Tim O' Brien can use memories to narrate Linda's tales. ( On writing short stories ). In the book, Martha plays a helpful part in maintaining Jimmy Cross's spirits. ( On writing short stories ). She encourages Jimmy, so it could also be harmful. Women have been portrayed as playing very positive parts in the war. The best woman in the book is Mary Anne, a seventeen year old lady; she has a high school sweetheart known as Mark Fossie and she travels to Vietnam to go visit him (Oates, Joyce Carol). In Vietnam she is able to distract the boys and they are made to feel at home. The men in Vietnam genuinely liked her as shown in the book ( On writing short stories ).

As time passes by, Mary Anne is really maturing and she is changing into a woman. During her second week in Vietnam, she is taught how to disassemble and M-16 and how the various parts of the weapon work by Eddie Diamond (Oates, Joyce Carol). She learnt to use the weapon from then henceforth. As Mary Anne progresses, we see her transform into becoming a soldier. She gives women a new directive as she is shown to represent power which is quite a positive thing (Oates, Joyce Carol). Mary Anne is able to get her power and new perspective on life from this journey of her life.

Mark Fossie, her boyfriend is forced to have to deal with losing the girl he once fell in love with. Her image is also affected negatively when she starts sleeping with the young soldiers and she turns into one of them when she begins wearing tongue necklaces and also begins to listen to dark music (Oates, Joyce Carol). The war is driving her crazy and she is not able to handle it.

Another woman represented in the book is Martha. She is a stay at home war girl and she writes letters to Lieutenant Jimmy Cross who she met at a college in New Jersey (Oates, Joyce Carol). They only remained friends during this period. They also do not develop into lovers during the whole time, however, Jimmy Cross thinks about her constantly. In one event, Martha sends Cross a good-luck pebble that she had found along the shoreline in the beach; she kept it in her breast pocket for a number of days before she sent it to Cross along with a letter ( On writing short stories ). Cross reads the letter and then spends hours wondering who Martha was at the beach with or whether she was seeing anyone (Oates, Joyce Carol).

Women motivated the soldiers each time they sent them a letter. Jimmy is quite confused however, when Martha signs the letter off with the word “love” (Oates, Joyce Carol). Women had different roles in this book, and some of them included;

Women helped men escape from reality

Thus, they were used as escapist fantasies. Martha’s letters to Lieutenant Jimmy Cross keeps him alive. He constantly day dreams about her every single time and the thought of her been a virgin adds to the sparks he feels for her (Oates, Joyce Carol). Back in the camp, he dreams of taking her on romantic camping trips and he is ever reading her letters, they add hope in his life during the war (Oates, Joyce Carol). He is also in love with the idea of been romantically involved with a pure young woman who is a lover of poetry. With this, he is able to escape the terrors of the war. He even dreams of kissing and touching her knee (Oates, Joyce Carol).

The letters and photos are burnt by Jimmy, when his friend dies and through this act, he tries to release the fantasy (Oates, Joyce Carol). He also carries the pebble that was sent to Cross by Martha. Henry Dobbins, Jimmie’s friend finds comfort in his girlfriend’s pantyhose that he wears around his neck ( On writing short stories ). When the war is over, Jimmie gets to meet Martha who is a nurse but uninterested in men (Oates, Joyce Carol). Even after Henry is dumped by his girlfriend, he still keeps the pantyhose like a good-luck charm. He does not understand why but the pantyhose protect something inside him, inside his own heart and soul. He understands that the pantyhose no longer protect his body or his love, but the part of him that believes in love is protected (Oates, Joyce Carol).

Tim’s three year old daughter, who is known as Kathleen, makes an appearance and tells him to write about a little girl who buys a Shetland pony after winning a million dollars (Oates, Joyce Carol). When Kathleen is nine years old, O’ Brien does not want to narrate the war stories to her because he wants to protect her innocence and Kathleen thinks he is weird (Oates, Joyce Carol).

A sister of a man who dies in the war receives a letter from Bob “Rat” Kiley but the sister never responds. O’ Brien tells his stories and older women approach him but they also do not understand him (Oates, Joyce Carol).

Woman as sign of Innocence

A story is told by Rat Kiley about a girl who enters the war wearing a sweater and some culottes( On writing short stories ). This seventeen year old girl known as Mary Anne Bell is the girlfriend to Mark Fossie, she is blonde and sweet, and she has a lively personality (Oates, Joyce Carol). The girl grows into a tough soldier and she goes on to war, Mary Anne Bell, is a representation of the innocence the men had when before they left for war in Vietnam (Oates, Joyce Carol). Mark is not pleased with how Mary Anne is quickly losing her good charm and taking on the hard character of the soldiers, so he tries to stop her (Oates, Joyce Carol).

As O’Brien puts, Mary Anne Bell cradled her gun but the way she did it, it was not with the sweetness that Mark would have wanted her to cradle her baby ( On writing short stories ). The once innocent and bubbly Mary Anne Bell gets so cold, this is a representation of how she the soldiers lost their innocence (Oates, Joyce Carol). Sally Kramer, who is a girlfriend to Norman Bowker a soldier in Vietnam, married someone else and this left Norman depressed (Oates, Joyce Carol). He thinks about telling her about the experiences of the war and what he had witnessed but then he realizes that she would not understand because she does not have background context about the happenings in the war (Oates, Joyce Carol).

Ladies who were far from the war areas remained sweet and innocent.

Woman as descriptive definition of man’s changes

Mary Anne was a representation of the ladies that were home away from the war. She was sweet, clean, innocent, bubbly and understanding (Oates, Joyce Carol). This was a descriptive definition of how men were before they left for war (Oates, Joyce Carol). Mary Anne Bell changed so drastically when she went to Vietnam, the innocence disappeared; she was no longer sweet and this is what happened to the men who went to war in Vietnam (Oates, Joyce Carol).

Works Cited

On writing short stories . Oxford University Press , 2000.

Oates, Joyce Carol. The Oxford book of American short stories. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price