Explain the Symbolism Used in the Story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’ Brien

Explain the Symbolism Used in the Story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’ Brien
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Tim O’Brien is both the speaker and central character of “The Things They Carried”. The story describes his personal involvement in the Vietnam War and lets him to make an observation on the combat. He comes into the war a frightened young man fearful of the embarrassment that ducking the warfare would bring him and emanates from the war a mortified middle-aged person who narrates stories on Vietnam so as to deal with his excruciating recollections. So as to take care of the remoteness between himself and what he narrates, O’Brien intertwines a protuberant thread of reminiscence through the work.

In most, scenarios, O’Brien symbolizes himself as substantiation for the generalities he makes about the combat. He is the chaperon through the incomprehensible revulsion of the combat and the foremost example of how life-threatening state of affairs can turn a reasonably thinking person into a combatant who commits appalling acts and desires harsh and unreasonable things. Infrequently, O’Brien disappears away and lets an alternative personality or an outwardly well-informed third person perspective narrate the story.

Jimmy Cross

Jimmy Cross’s charisma characterizes the philosophical effects obligation has on those who are too undeveloped to button it. From college, he is recruited into the Reserve Officers Training Corps for the reason that it is valued at limited credits and since his associates are doing it. Nevertheless he does not take precaution about the warfare and has no yearning to be a squad leader. Nevertheless, when he is brought into combat with more than a few men in his responsibility, he is uncertain in the whole lot of things he does.
Jimmy Cross comes in to be looked at as a Christ character. In times of unfathomable massacres, certain personalities assume the situation of a group’s or their own redeemer. Such persons suffer so that others do not have to tolerate the impact of the blame and misunderstanding. Cross is associated to Christ by not only on an insincere side by side mode—they share initials and are both associated with the impression of the cross—nonetheless also in the nature of his character. Like Jesus Christ, who grieves for his colleague men, Cross smarts for the sake of the all-inclusive squad. In “The Things They Carried,” Jimmy Cross accepts the sorrow of Lavender’s demise for the associates of his troop, like Kiowa, who are so thunderstruck to grieve. This character symbolizes someone who is selfless and accepts the responsibilities and pains of his fellow men.


Kiowa’s demise is symbolic of the pointless catastrophe of combat. He passes on in a grisly manner, going down under the mess of a sewage ground for which his compatriot, Jimmy Cross, had a bad sentiment. Kiowa’s completely inundated body characterizes the transient manner of life and the perplexing unexpectedness with which it can be rushed away. There is no self-respect to Kiowa’s demise; he turns out to be another victim in a combat that takes away from men their distinctiveness and turns them into indicators.


An inconsequential character whose culpability over his responsibility to the harm of Lee Strunk makes him break his own nose. His respite after Strunk’s demise is an image of the standpoint soldiers are obligated to shoulder. As an alternative to mourning the demise of his associate, he is happy to know that the deal the two struck—and that he did not fulfill—has turned out to be superseded. Dave is symbolized as a person who is self-centered and only cares about his own stuff regardless of his associates’’ where beings.


She is O’Brien’s offspring and comes in as a symbol of the green stranger. Even though O’Brien suggests to siring multiple kids, Kathleen turns out to be the only one discussed in the story. Her adolescence nature and incorruptibility forces O’Brien to try to explicate the significance of the combat. Exasperated that he is not in a position to tell her the complete actuality, he is motivated by her manifestation since it requires him to increase new standpoint on his combat experience. Kathleen symbolizes the little inquisitive person who is innocent. Innocence is a virtue that Kathleen depicts in the story. The girl accepts wholly whatever her dad tells her and this also symbolizes trust, belief and respect from the girl to the father.

Work Cited
Herzog, Tobey C. Tim O’Brien. The Things They Carried. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997. Print.