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The Things They Carried

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The Importance of Friendship in The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried is a collection of stories about the Vietnam War that the author, Tim O'Brien, uses to convey his experiences and feelings about the war. The book is filled with stories about the men of Alpha Company and their lives in Vietnam and afterwards back in the United States. O'Brien captures the reader with graphic descriptions of the war that make one feel as if they were in Vietnam. The characters are unique and the reader feels sadness and compassion for them by the end of the novel. To O'Brien the novel is not only a compilation of stories, but also a release of the fears, sadness, and anger that he has felt because of the Vietnam War.

One of the significannot

concepts in The Things They Carried is that of the importance of certain objects or feelings used by the soldiers of Alpha Company to survive the war. Some examples of these items are the picture of the girl carried by Jimmy Cross, the Bible carried by Kiowa, and the stockings carried by Henry Dobbins. All the items helped the respective soldier to survive from day to day and to continue fighting the war. One of the most important things that helped the soldiers is their friendship with each other. This bond that the soldiers form helped them to survive, excluded someone who was outside their group, and helped the men of Alpha Company to cope with the war after they returned to the United States.

The bond that men form with each other in the heat of battle is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced warfare for themselves.

It's a hard thing to explain to somebody who hasn't felt it, but the resence of death and danger has a way of bringing you fully awake. It makes things vivid. When you're afraid, really afraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world. You make close friends. You become part of a tribe and you share the same blood - you give it together, you take it together. (O'Brien, 220)

This bond of friendship helps the men of Alpha Company survive on a day to day basis. They rely on each other for entertainment to drone out the monotony of the days. With hours and hours of marching and no action the men need a release or the boredom would drive them crazy. An example of this is "Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kiley and Dave Jensen, the three of them leaping around barefoot while a bunch of villagers looked on with a mixture of fascination and giggly horror" (O'Brien, 39). These men looked to each other for emotional support and reassurance since none was coming from the homefront. The men of Alpha Company trusted each other with their lives. Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk are a good example of this trust, "In late August they made a pact that if one of them should ever get totally fucked up - a wheelchair wound - the other guy would automatically find a way to end it" (O'Brien, 71). This pact helps these two in that they know that if it came down to living their entire life in a wheel chair that the other would end it there in Vietnam. The men trusted each other to make no mistakes because one mistake could cause someone to lose their life.

He pictured Kiowa's face. They'd been close buddies, the tightest, and he remembered how last night they had huddled together under their ponchos, the rain cold and steady, the water rising to their knees, but how Kiowa had just laughed it off and said they should concentrate on better things. And so for a long while they'd talked about their families and hometowns. At one point, the boy remembered, he'd been showing Kiowa a picture of his girlfriend. He remembered switching on his flashlight. A stupid thing to do, but he did it anyway, and he remembered Kiowa leaning in for a look at the picture - "Hey, she's cute," he'd said - and then the field exploded all around them.

Like murder, the boy thought. The flashlight made it happen. Dumb and dangerous. And as a result his friend Kiowa was dead. (O'Brien, 192)

This trust of the soldiers in each other with their lives created the friendship and bond that helped them survive each day in Vietnam.

This friendship and bond that the soldiers form in combat is also seen when the Narrator is wounded and leaves Alpha Company and runs into them at Base Camp. The Narrator feels like he is not part of the group anymore. "In a way, I envied him - all of them. Their deep bush tans, the sores and blisters, the stories, the in-it-togetherness. I felt close to them, yes, but I also felt a new sense of



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