“The Things They Carried” is a short story about a man and his squad that he led during the Vietnam war.
The title is using symbolism to refer to the gear the men carried and the emotion burdens brought with them also. Jimmy Cross is the leader of the squad. He carries letters from a college girl that he is in love with. His love often gets in the way of his focus on the war and the protection of himself and his squad.
Him being distracted resulted in the death of one of his men named Ted Lavender. After Lavender’s death Cross blamed himself and ended up burning all of the things he had that had anything to do with Martha to help him to concentrate more and to prevent more death. Symbolism is used in “The Things They Carried” in many instances. One of the men in the squad carries a thumb that was cut off the burnt body of a teenage boy. Many people think this is a way of the soldier trying to capture some of the innocence that the boy had.
Another instance where symbolism is used is in the pebble that Martha sent Lt. Cross. This pebble is meant to symbolize “..where things came together but also separated” (O’Brien 99). This pebble is almost teasing Jimmy because he is head over heels in love with Martha she keeps sending keepsakes and letters even though she doesn’t love him.
“The Things They Carried” is a great short story with many examples of symbolism. Some of the names of the characters have heavy symbolism on them. Jimmy Cross is the leader of the squad.
The last name Cross can be interpreted as him having a large burden on him like Jesus did when he was forced to carry the cross he was later nailed to. Ted Lavender is also a character within the story whose name can be interpreted as characteristics. Lavender is a scent, a soft and sweet scent.
Neither of those traits would be helpful in a war. Lavender is also the name of a flower. Flowers wilt and die just like Ted Lavender did in the short story.