The Things They Carried

the things they carried

3. A striking characteristic of the story’s style is its thorough catalogs of the concrete, tangible “things” the soldiers carry. Why do you suppose such detailed lists are included? What does what each man carries tell you about him? In a less literal, more abstract sense, what else do these men “carry”?

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Certainly the tangible non-military things they carry represent the soldier. There is little extra gear they are allowed to carry so they pack small symbolic things or light practical things like wills. Aside from the basic goods, explains O’Brien, all of the men “hump” slightly different things. One wears his girlfriend’s stockings around his neck, another carries a bible, another carries a slingshot, another comic books, another condoms. In an abstract sense all these items represent their hopes, lost dreams, and past experiences.