What can be a topic sentence introducing the character of Lt. Jimmy Cross in "Things They Carried" that makes 3 claims about how Tim O'Brien characterizes him?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here is a topic sentence with the three claims enumerated in parentheses:

Like so many young officers sent to Vietnam, twenty-four year-old Lt. Jimmy Cross is (1)as confused and overwhelmed by the ambiguities of the foreign conflict in which he finds himself as the young men under him; in this confusion, (2) he seeks escape from military objectives and engages in reveries of Martha, a girl he loves from home, but after the death of Ted Lavender, a death about which he feels responsible, (3) Cross vows to lead his men with the new "hardness in his stomach."

In the beginning of "Things They Carried," there is a sense of nomadic wandering by the men, who carry the trivial and the dangerous necessities of war on their persons. Lt. Jimmy Cross appears to be as ambiguous of purpose as the "grunts." For, he must shake himself out of his fantasies about Martha and look at maps and position his troop, although he quickly returns to his romantic fantasizing and "he was not there." Even when the men approach the tunnel, Cross envisions himself with Martha in this tunnel. However, when the realities of war come despite his carrying of his good luck pebble from Martha, Lt. Cross trembles with the horrible reality of Ted Lavender's death. It is then that he feels "[A] dullness of desire and intellect and conscience and hope and human sensibility." So, he burns Martha's pictures and letters, he cannot "burn the blame" as he feels responsible for the loss of Lavender. Now, Cross knows that 

their calculations were biological. They had no sense of strategy or mission....They carried their own lives. The pressures were enormous.

Feeling responsible for the death of Lavender, the lieutenant vows to be vigilant and sterner henceforth. In his interior monologue, Cross promises himself to assume "the correct command posture."  With a new "hardness in his stomach," Cross vows to keep the men under his control and be the officer he should be. He leads his men to a village where they kill and destroy, but he cannot assuage his guilt.

Read the study guide:
The Things They Carried

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question