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Things They Carried Essay: Strength in The Things They Carried

Strength in The Things They Carried

Everybody has to deal with adversity at some point in their lives. The adversity that they go through varies from person to person. For First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, he had to make it through the Vietnam War alive. In the short story, “The Things They Carried,” where Cross draws his strength from is somewhat unclear. He seems strong at the beginning of the story, but then again, he also seems to be gaining strength towards the end of the story. This paper shows two different points of view. It discusses whether Jimmy Cross is a stronger person at the beginning of the story or at the end of the story.

One opinion is that First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is stronger before he burns the pictures of Martha. His strength comes from his connections to the outside world. Martha is his link to life away from the war. This is why it is important that “Martha never mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself. She wasn’t involved” (O’Brien 403-404). She symbolizes all that he left behind, and all that he hopes to someday return to: innocence, comfort, love, and hope. These hopes and dreams are the things that keep him sane; they keep him more human and less of a war machine. He shows his strength by attaching himself to these things and by keeping himself partly detached from the violence surrounding him. He has the amazing ability to admit to himself that, “he was just a kid at war, in love. He was twenty-two years old. He couldn’t help it” (397). By having the strength to see this reality, he fights against war’s power to consume a person’s whole identity.

However, by deciding that, “henceforth, when he thought about Martha, it would be only to think that she belonged…

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…do, to a man who now realizes his job, and will make damn sure to get it done right.

Both of the points of view are valid arguments. Both are well thought out and have good evidence to back them up. So which one is the right one? Well, that’s the great thing about short stories like “The Things They Carried,” they are open to interpretation. The reader is the one to decide what it means to them. The point of this paper was to present two different arguments from two different readers. These points of view were both able to answer the question, was Jimmy Cross stronger at the beginning of the story or at the end of the story, in their own way.

Work Cited

O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 2nd ed. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford, 2001. Pg. 392-405.

Essay on Flight in Song of Solomon

The Importance of Flight in Song of Solomon

Flight is a major theme in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. “Flight echoes throughout the story as a reward, as a hoped-for skill, as an escape, and as proof of intrinsic worth; however, by the end this is not so clear a proposition”(Lubiano 96). Song of Solomon ends with ‘flight’ but in such a way that the act allows for multiple interpretations: suicide; “real” flight and then a wheeling attack on his “brother”; or “real” flight and then some kind of encounter with the (possibly) killing arms of his brother.

That Guitar places his rifle on the ground does not make him any less deadly – his smile and the dropping of the gun both precede the language of “killing arms” – and his “my man – my main man” is an echo of the same irony that allowed Guitar to call Milkman his friend even after his prior attempt at killing him (Middleton 298). And Guitar’s arms are killing, not just because they want to answer the challenge posed by Milkman’s move toward him, but because they are the arms that have killed, that killed white people, that can kill anyone who isn’t black, or anyone Guitar can convince himself isn’t black: like Pilate. In other words, Guitar can make an “other” of anyone who crosses the boundaries of the definitions he constructs for the group that he purports to love: black people. What Guitar has constructed in his life is a category of political ciphers that does not allow for the existence of the idiosyncratic Pilate or for the existence of the individualistically apolitical Milkman. Milkman’s journey forward to flight is a journey into his past; his future is behind him. The text’s refutation of the idea of a whole untroubled self is thus crystallized in the …

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… it is Pilate who represents not only embodied history but the praxis that comes with recognizing history’s effects, the willingness to theorize about possibilities in the face of history, and the ability to make concrete alternatives to personal and public inequities. Remaining on the ground of history, then, is a labor of love.

Works Cited:

Middleton, David. Toni Morrison’s Fiction: Contemporary Criticism. New York: Garland, 1997.

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Lubiano, Wahneema. “The Postmodernist Rag: Political Identity and the Vernacular in Song of Solomon,” in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon,” in New Essays on Song of Solomon, ed. Valerie Smith, Cambridge University Press 1995, 93-116, 111-113:

Peterson, Nancy J. Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

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