The Platoon of American Soldiers

In his masterpiece short story The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien describes the experiences of a platoon of American soldiers particularly the things they carried during the Vietnam War. The story Depicts lieutenant Cross as a very responsible person, especially with regards to the platoon he leads, that bestows on him the responsibility of safe guarding the lives of his men. In an ideal situation, Cross is very reasonable and exercises good leadership skills so to say, however, Cross seems to retract his good leadership traits in the battlefield, especially due to the emotional attachment he has to Martha which exposes his platoon colleagues to danger.

His character is changed adversely by the experience in the war, at some point we see Cross angry and frustrated over the loss of a picture that had on it her ex-girlfriend, other than on the loss of his soldiers. He thinks of her ex-girlfriend, Martha, as both a sexual being and the only person he could spend the post war period with. And he spends a lot of time thinking about her which tells us that Cross is not an all time good leader. The war affects all involved negatively. Like is the case with Cross, who is trying to repress memories of the war so as to interact and survive in the normal world. The story lets us speculate on the guilt suffered by Cross as involving the death of lavender affecting his rational thinking. The Lieutenant is both rational and irrational at instances, due to the death experiences of his fellow soldiers in the field.

Many people and soldiers died in the war, the story tells us that the platoon members shook the hands of their fellow soldiers when dead in the war. Ted Lavender was one best example, when he died the soldiers asked and answered questions on his behalf, this to them made death less fearful and saddening. It gave than the feeling that one of their own was still alive.

The story takes us a month later after the death of Ted Lavender and shows us that many other soldiers had died. Due to the enormous number of the dead they could not shake all their hands like they had done with Lavender. Curt Lemon, died not in an offensive or an attack but as he was talking to Kiley, and blew himself up into some trees by a grenade that he was tossing, the writer who climbed the trees to retrieve his body, felt sorry but could not help the situation in any way, but to bring his body remains down the tree. However, it was interesting to see that they could afford to sing “lemon trees” after the death of a colleague. As if that was not enough, on a different day, Kiowa another platoon member sunk down muck and died along the Song Tra Bong.

In July, in the mountains another battle happened and among six others together with the writer, was to collect bodies, twenty seven in total. The site and smell of the bodies as explained sent shivers. As the seven collected the dead it sure remained a day to remember in bad light. The story explains how the dead lay in unforgettable positions of pain and miserly. Just like was the case in  lemons death they writer still managed to find a light moment and explains that one of the dead was in a position ready to perform a hand stand or a somersault which is interesting in contrast to his fair comment, Mitchell Sanders thought death sucked.

Not all in Cross’s platoon died the unfortunate include; Lemon, Ted and Kiowa. However many others, for the same course died. The three died in their line of work except for the special circumstances under which Lemon died. It is however prudent to appreciate that all of them were fearful and always contemplated shooting their own foot so as to go back to safer camp, away from the battlefront but they overcame this cowardice and fought, some even losing their lives. It is however attention-grabbing to see that most of them including the writer still have effects of the war as it has physiological affected them.  The Lieutenant himself concentrates on the memories of ex-girlfriends picture and the prospected good times with Martha so as to reduce the traumas’ continuously reacquired during the war, irrespective of her showing constant disinterest to the extent of handing him a rock that signifies how separated they are.

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