The Things They Carried

What sorts of things did the young men in vietnam carry?

chapter 1

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O’Brien lists the things the soldiers carry -- both physical and emotional. All carry basic military goods and personal items: provisions, ammunition, and special ponchos that they may be wrapped in if they die. Army slang for carrying goods is “humping” them. 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.

Cross carries letters from a gray-eyed English literature student named Martha. He is in love with her, but he is obsessed with whether or not she is a virgin. He remembers taking her out on a date, trying to put a hand on her knee, and being rebuffed. He wishes he had carried her up to her room, and “kept his hand on her knee all night.” After she sends him a pebble he keeps it in his mouth and imagines it is her tongue. As lieutenant, O’Brien points out, Cross “carries” responsibility for the lives of all of his men. Cross considers this a heavy burden.