The things the men carry help define them as individuals because some of the things they carried showed their personality. For example, Jimmy Cross carried a pebble with him that the girl he loves sent to him as a good luck charm. Kiowa was a devout Baptist, so he carried a new testament. Dave Jenson cared about hygiene so he carried soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste with him everywhere he went. These items reveal what they value most and what they miss from before the war. Some interesting items that were carried by the men were tranquilizers, comic books, slingshots, and M&Ms. Some items that were unexpected to be carried around by the men include condoms and tanning lotion. Why would someone bring condoms with him to the war? It’s not like you are going to use it in the war. Some men also carried around with them underwear which also seemed very strange.
Jimmy Cross carries multiple reminders from his love, Martha a girl from his college in New Jersey. Cross is in love with her but she’s not in love with him. Cross carries her letters in his backpack and the pebble in his mouth because Martha sent it to him as a good luck charm. The pebble was not only a symbol of good luck, but it was also important to Cross as he dealt with the trauma of war, through the physical weight he carried due to the death of his man. Cross reads the letters every night before sleep and thinks of her.
The narrator tells a story about Rat Kiley that he conveys to his readers as a true story to show the amorality of a war story. O’Brien says that this is a true story because such stories are unsentimental and seem too crazy to believe. Rat’s story doesn’t have an uplifting end or moral to it simply exposes what the war was like and his profound sense of loss over his friend. When Curt lemon is killed, Rat writes Lemon’s sister a letter talking about her brother and the crazy things that he has attempted during his time. Rat believes the letter is poignant and personal. In war, there is only death and the only way to respond to that reality is with obscenities. Another view of looking at the story is that there are lots of morals to it and that there are endless morals in it. The war contains everything and at such intensity, it is beyond anyone’s ability to directly communicate. In my opinion what makes a true war story is the mystery, adventure, and the discovery of it. In my opinion, the mystery and the adventure will make the reader read more of the story.
O’Brien defines courage as being able to be mentally tough, not as something physical, but more as something mental. As a soldier, the characters in this book had to be brave in ways other than risking their lives and shooting at enemies. Soldiers go through a lot on a daily basis, but the mental part of it is the hardest to go through. They had to do things that made them uncomfortable mentally. My definition of courage is the ability to stand up for what you believe in, being physically brave, and also mentally brave. To be brave enough to do something that others cannot do is really brave in my opinion.
The female characters in the book
Martha is an English major back in the USA, she is Jimmie Cross’s lover but she is not interested in dating men. Tim’s daughter Kathleen, makes an appearance to tell her dad to write about a little girl who wins a million dollars and spends it on Shetland pony. When Kathleen reaches age nine, O’Brien pretends that he wants to tell her war stories when she’s grown up, but he doesn’t want her to know. O’Brien doesn’t want to bruise her innocence. Kathleen is a symbol of the naïve outsider, her youth and innocence forces O’Brien to try to explain the meaning of war. Mary Anne arrives in Vietnam full of innocence. Mary Anne’s story shows how women should have been deemed equal during the war, the novel was more about war and the effect associated with it than equality of the sexes. Linda is O’Brien’s first love, who died from a brain tumor in the fifth grade. O’Brien’s first experience with mortality. From O’Brien’s experience with Linda, he learns the power that storytelling has to keep his memory alive.
Fiction can underlying a message in a form of a story. It causes sensation thoughts in the reader’s brain. Fiction books allow us to admire the imagination in a diversity of characters’ forms. Stories can save us by bringing the dead back to life also stories don’t just bring people back to life as a way of preserving their memory. Stories help us process memories by making them present.