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Published: 06-11-2019

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Guilt Conscious: O’Brien’s Most Prevalent Emotion

In The Factors They Carried, Tim O’Brien discusses the physical and emotional burdens that come along with war. The “things” that the soldiers carry are both literal and figurative. They carry sentimental things to remind them of residence, meals, weapons, survival gear, and even physical wounds. Even so, they also carry grief, longing, and terror. O’Brien focuses on the most prevalent of these feelings, guilt.

O’Brien, who is both the narrator and protagonist of the text, discusses his experiences in the Vietnam War. O’Brien utilizes his storytelling as comfort for dealing with his painful previous and to mourn, “Tim attempting to save Timmy’s life with a story” (246). He enables his fellow soldiers to be remembered by turning his memories into stories. In addition, by telling the stories, Tim overcomes some of his guilt. Tim is a pacifist, who when was 1st drafted, tries to speak himself out of going primarily based on that fact that he opposed the war in college. He could feel of no way to get out of the war as they would not let him go to graduate school and he could not fake an illness. He went to the Canadian border, thought about how “we make our choices or fail to make them” (60) and decided that operating across the border was wrong, rationalizing that he had an obligation to his family members and nation. O’Brien felt guilty about fleeing. He did not want his family to look upon him with shame, and he did not want to be noticed as a coward. It felt wrong to him that others had to leave for war and that he could just run away. Tim left for war a scared, young man, and would later return as a guilt-ridden man who is forced to tell stories about Vietnam to cope with the painful memories of war.

O’Brien’s principal source of guilt comes from killing a young soldier. One evening, he saw a soldier in the distance and could make out that he was wearing an ammunition belt. He felt in his stomach what was taking place, pondering there could be an attack, and he pulled the pin of his grenade automatically, without having considering. The young soldier died. Tim felt guilty due to the fact “he did not hate the young man he did not see him as the enemy he did not ponder problems of morality or politics or military duty” (132). He thought to himself that it was not even a matter of life or death. Tim experiences intense guilt, pondering that if he had not pulled the pin, the man could have just passed by. It is a challenging question because for 1, it is O’Brien’s job as a soldier to fight and to defend. A single would argue that it was his duty to throw a grenade at the opposition. Kiowa, a fellow soldier, even reminded Tim that the soldier would have possibly died anyway. Nevertheless, to Tim, it was the wrong move, and he deeply regrets it:

Even now I haven’t finished sorting it out. At times I forgive myself, other times I do not. In the ordinary hours of life I attempt not to dwell on it, but now and then, when I’m reading a newspaper or just sitting alone in a room, I’ll look up and see the young man coming out of the morning fog. (134)

Years following the war, he still can't get over the guilt and appears to be a tiny haunted by the encounter. Even if he attempts to forgive himself, he will never overlook, and will nevertheless see the “the young man coming out of the morning fog” (134). He even tries to think about what the young soldier’s life would have been if he had not killed him.

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross also experiences guilt due to his experiences in Vietnam. He is accountable for all of his men on the Alpha Business, but as his soldiers commence to die one particular by one, he begins to really feel responsible. First, Ted Lavender died when he was shot in the head leaving the bathroom. Cross is unsure of how to lead his guys and feels that is obsession and preoccupation with his really like, Martha, triggered his death. Instead of focusing on the war, Cross focuses on a girl who he is unsure if she even loves him back. He carries her letters and constantly thinks of her, questioning if she is a virgin. Soon after Lavender is shot and his physique is carried away, Cross sat in a foxhole crying. He knows that it is his lack of focus that triggered Ted’s death. The lieutenant “felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was anything he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war” (16). He does carry the guilt with him, but regrettably it is not the only guilt that Lieutenant Cross would leave the Vietnam War with.

Lieutenant Cross makes one more fatal mistake later in the war. A group of Vietnamese ladies warm the soldiers not to settle in a field along the river, but Jimmy Cross orders the guys to keep there anyway and tells the girls to leave. Once the soldiers set up camp, rounds of mortar fell on the camp, and the field seemed to boil and explode. Then, Kiowa sunk into the muck. He had “lost his weapon, but it did not matter. All he wanted was a bath” (149). Cross thinks of Kiowa and the crime that is his death. He concludes that though the order to camp came from a higher energy, he made a mistake letting his men camp on the unsafe riverbank. Jimmy Cross was educated to think of the soldiers as “identical copies of a single soldier, interchangeable units of command” (163). Nonetheless, he preferred to view his guys as human beings. Cross refused to see Kiowa as just one more soldier who would die ultimately, but as a particular person whom he feels straight accountable for his death. Jimmy’s guilt was so wonderful, he felt as although he had committed a crime. Just as the soldiers carry burdens, Jimmy Cross carries compasses, maps but also the duty for the males in his charge. Jimmy Cross confides in O’Brien that he has in no way forgiven himself for Ted Lavender’s or Kiowa’s death.

Tn The Things They Carried, O’Brien discusses the physical and emotional burdens that come along with war like the most prevalent, guilt. Right after the war, the psychological burdens the males carry throughout the war continue to define them. Two men and women, soldier O’Brien and Lieutenant Jimmy Cross walk away from the Vietnam War guilt-ridden. Tim struggles with the situations of killing a young soldier. It was his job to defend and fight, but he believes that the soldier would have just walked away and that he could have spared a life. He did not have something against the soldier, and feels that he took an innocent life. On the other hand, Lieutenant Cross feels guilty for not major his soldiers properly. He feels responsible for the deaths of two of his guys, Ted Lavender and Kiowa. Ted died at his expense because he was as well busy focusing on his love Martha, rather than his guys. Kiowa died since he made a bad judgment get in touch with. All in all, these males had to deal with their guilt post-war. Nevertheless, via The Issues They Carried, O’Brien shows that is achievable for folks to deal with their grief and overcome their guilt.
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