Lieutenant Jimmy Cross Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1946 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Military

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross

The Things They Carried

Character Analysis of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross

The Things They Carried is the first of a series of short stories that depict soldiers' lives during war times. The stories are based on author Tim O'Brien's own experience with war and his own charter is sometimes included in part of the writings. The short story revolves around a platoon of soldiers fighting in Vietnam and the Things They Carried with them (not only the actual things but also what they carry in their mind).

O'Brien begins his narration by simply and plainly presenting the material things the soldiers carry, such as supplies, weapons, bandages or medicines. Each character carries those things that define his role within the platoon. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the leader of the platoon, carries maps, compasses and the responsibility for his men's safety. Doctor Rat Kiley carries medical supplies, the responsibility for the platoon's health and the duty to aid the wounded. Each carried item is objectively presented and weighted as to emphasize on how much they burden the carriers. "The weapon weighed 7.5 pounds unloaded, 8.2 pounds with its full 20 round magazine. The riflemen carried anywhere from 12 to 20 magazines...adding on another 8.4 pounds at minimum, 14 pounds at maximum." (O'Brien)

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Aside from the military items each soldier carries, their backpacks also contain things that define soldiers' individuality and pre-war existence. Sentimental lieutenant Cross carries pictures, letters and a pebble from Martha; religious Kiowa carries a bible from his father and nervous Ted Lavender carries marijuana and tranquilizers. In addition to the military and personal items they possess, soldiers carry the burden of their loves, desires, hopes, aspirations, fears, hatred and desperations. These are the things that define soldiers' essence, that build up their characters and that reveal their true selves.

Thesis Statement

TOPIC: Term Paper on Lieutenant Jimmy Cross Assignment

Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" depicts Jimmy Cross' journey from boyhood to manhood and reveals a character marked by youth's naivety, unshared love, war, death and the feeling of guilt.

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is the central character in Tim O'Brien's the Things They Carried. He is the leader of a small group of soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Jimmy is similar in many ways to his fellow men, but he also possesses some unique features.

2. Similarity to other soldiers

The common features he shares with other soldiers regard his young age, his lack of experience and his misinterpretation of the war. Most of the soldiers are young men, boys in their late adolescence or of ages little over twenty. When these young soldiers enrolled, they had no idea as to what really awaited them behind the enemy lines. Lieutenant Cross perfectly fits into this description.

He is a twenty-two years sophomore at university and he is convinced to join the army by the few benefits that are offered and by the fact that most of his friends and colleagues were enrolling. However, he has no real interest in the war. There are numerous scenes in the short story that reveal his lack of dedication. For instance, he would often stop from his duties in order to engage in daydreaming. His dreamy behavior would later on lead to disastrous outcomes.

Due to the fact that he has a somewhat superior education to those possessed by other soldiers, Jimmy Cross is named lieutenant of the Alpha Company. Among the first details presented by O'Brien about the hero, the reader can find that "As the first lieutenant and platoon leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a.45- caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds full loaded." (O'Brien)

But aside from these material things, Cross carries the responsibility of keeping his men safe, duty he does not take too seriously.

The rest of the soldiers also have baggage to carry, both military as well as emotional. If in the beginnings they see the war as an adventure and the Things They Carried do not bother them that much, towards the end, their sole desire is for them to be relieved from the burden of the Things They Carried. The soldiers dream of the day when they would no longer have to carry their heavy bags and their desperations. They dream of getting into an airplane and "falling higher and higher" (O'Brien) while loosing the weight that hurt them so much.

3. Differences between Jimmy Cross and the other soldiers

The baggage each soldier carries is an element that differentiates the lieutenant from the rest of the platoon and it actually differentiates all soldiers from each other. The Things They Carried reveal each soldier's personality and fears. Tim O'Brien reveals the connection between the carried things and the soldiers' personality: "Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations [...]. Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap [...] Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head. Dave Jensen carried three pairs of socks and a can of Dr. Scholl's foot powder as a precaution against trench foot. Mitchell Sanders, the RTO, carried condoms. Norman Bowker carried a diary. Rat Kiley carried comic books. Kiowa, a devout Baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother's distrust of the white man, his grandfather's old hunting hatchet. Necessity" (O'Brien)

Jimmy Cross carried the military supplies required by a lieutenant and these bring about the responsibility of protecting his men. However, Jimmy does not invest too much energy in this direction. He is young and inexperienced, he has never seen a war before and he does not understand its consequences and the magnitude of his own actions and responsibilities, ergo he willingly neglects his duties. Jimmy prefers to spend his time dreaming of Martha, a collage student specializing in English. Martha's memory is kept alive with the aid of two pictures, a lucky pebble he keeps under his mouth and some letters. These are the things Jimmy carries and they remind him of home; they also reveal the hero's sensitive side, his feelings and his emotions.

4. Martha's mark on Lieutenant Jimmy Cross

However she is not a central charter in O'Brien's short story, Martha represents a strong force that defines lieutenant's Cross character. At the bottom of his backpack, Jimmy keeps two pictures of Martha. The first picture shows Martha leaning against a wall; Jimmy wonders who took that picture. The second photograph shows Martha during a volleyball match, sustaining the entire weight of her body on her left knee. This picture reminds Jimmy of their single date, when they went to see Bonnie and Clyde and he touched her knee. Martha looked at him in a way that demanded him to remove his hand, which he did.

During the war, Jimmy regrets having removed his hand from the girl's knee and he constantly thinks of new things he would have liked to do. He would have liked to carry her to his room, tie her to the bed and touch her left knee all night long. "Whenever he looked at the photographs, he thought of new things he should have done." (O'Brien)

Aside from the two pictures, Jimmy also carries a lucky pebble and all letters he ever received from Martha. She loves poetry and tells Jimmy about her favorite writers. However she signs all her letters with Love, she is not in love with the hero. He knows it, but he sometimes pretends it isn't so.

To young Jimmy Cross, Martha represents purity, love and all that is good in the world. She is his reminder of what he has left behind and his hope for the places he would once again return to. Martha is the lieutenant's link to a better, safer and more beautiful place, one in which death does not follow with every step. Jimmy sees her as the epitome of kindness and in his inner soul, she is the embodiment of good, fighting the atrocities of war. But his hope that love and kindness would conquer are shuttered to pieces when comrade Ted Lavender is mortally wounded.

5. Lieutenant Cross' coping with the death of Ted Lavender

Ted Lavender was scared and nervous and he generally consumed large amounts of tranquilizers in order to calm his nerves; he even happened to be drugged at the time of his death. He was mortally shot while satisfying his physiological needs.

Lavender was the first to die in the Alpha Company and his death had opposite effects on the platoon. The majority of the soldiers were joking about the silly circumstances in which Ted died and were laughing at his exaggerate consumption of drugs.

On the other hand, Lieutenant Cross was confronted with immense feelings of quilt and shame, blaming his lack of attention for the comrade's death. So big were his shame and remorse that he could barely stop from… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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