The Dehumanized Solider in
“The Things They Carried”
In Tim O’Brian’s “The Things They Carried”, Lieutenant Cross tells about the items or the burdens his men carry. It isn’t until Lavender gets killed that he realizes that one of his emotional and physical items, his love for Martha is the cause and gives him an emotional burden of one of his men died because of his lack of focus on the situation. This was when not only does his officer get shot but so does Lt. Cross with a dose of reality and this is the point at which Lt. Cross becomes dehumanized.
His platoon become dehumanized to deal with the war; most like him were teenagers, not emotionally ready for the horrible views of a war. For example we learn that Norman Bowker, otherwise a very gentle person, carried a thumb that had been presented to him as a gift by Mitchell Sanders. This thumb had been cut off a very young VC found burned and dead in the ditch. Mitchell Sanders cut off the thumb and then kicked the body as though it was a sack of potatoes. There is no thought of disgust or understanding of what he has done. Even Norman has no qualms about accepting this gift even though he is not considered a violent person.
Before Lavender’s death Cross idealized war, he was more concerned with his love for Martha. He would daydream about her not taking his duties as lieutenant seriously. Lt. Cross doesn’t fear death but of disappointing and failing to protect his men. He feels personally responsible for the death of Lavender; he thinks that if he had been paying more attention, Lavender’s death could have been prevented. Because of his fear, he becomes more determined to distance himself from the men and be more of a leader for them.
He feels that by burning his letters and pictures of Martha it will help him become a better lieutenant to his platoon. But he learns that he has the letters memorized, and he can...