In both the opening and closing stories of The Things They Carried, imagination is linked to an idealized, unattainable woman—Martha, a girlfriend at home, and Linda, a childhood sweetheart who died at nine. The first story plays one of the many variations on the imagination-reality motif and picks up where O'Brien's earlier novel, Going after Cacciato, left off, with Paul Berlin imagining himself pleading for peace at the Paris Peace Talks but admitting: ''Even in imagination we must be true to our obligations, for, even in imagination, obligation cannot be outrun....
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