“””The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, contains many references to “possessions of character.”Many things Lt. Cross carries were carried by all, including: military equipment, stationery, photographs, diseases, food, the land of Vietnam itself, their lives, and even more. O’Brien highlights these along with special things that Lt. Jimmy Cross carries. He, thus, reveals something of what Cross values. Belongings reflect his character and thoughts. “Grief, terror, love, longing–these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.”
Lt. Jimmy Cross carries letters and a pebble from Martha, a girl whom he cares about greatly, but she does not share the same emotions for him. He carries these things to remind him of her, of his feelings for her. At the end of every day he ritually unwraps them and reads them. These letters are light in weight, only ten ounces, but prove to be a heavy burden. Above all, he carries the responsibility for the lives of his men. He is dreaming when Lavender is shot, and so he blames himself for it. Lavender’s death was something which “He would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war.” He does not always pay attention to what is most important, his men. Lt. Jimmy Cross burns all of Martha’s letters at the end of the story, trying to forget her, to erase the memory. Still, he carries her in his mind along with the haunting memory that she was not involved. Martha is just a part of the technicalities now, he bids her farewell in his mind and decides to rid himself of the pebble. He is past his days of dreaming and hoping. Everything that Lt. Cross carries has more physical weight than those letters, but none were more of a burden to him.
Everything that Jimmy Cross carries bears more physical weight than the letters. Nothing, however, seems to be nearly as much of a burden. Cross is an ignorant young man going into the war. Lavender’s death and everything going on around him opens his eyes to the immediate dangers. What he has, both inside and outside, have kept him from realizing this. “His obligation was not to be loved but to lead.”