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The Things They Carried

by Tim O’Brien

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Henry Dobbins

In "The Things They Carried", what did Henry Dobbins carry, and why?

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Henry Dobbins carries the M60 machine gun, extra ammunition, canned peaches (which he's very fond of) and his girlfriend's pantyhose. The simplicity of his load, compared to the other men, is commented upon in the sense that it reflects upon his character; he's a big, simple guy, like America itself, a "believer in the system". Between the machine gun, the peaches and the pantyhose, he has everything he needs; tools, comfort food, and magic.

The pantyhose is what draws the most attention;

It was his one eccentricity. The pantyhose, he said, had the properties
of a good-luck charm. He liked putting his nose into the nylon and
breathing in the scent of his girlfriend's body; he liked the memories this
inspired; he sometimes slept with the stockings up against his face, the
way an infant sleeps with a flannel blanket, secure and peaceful. More
than anything, though, the stockings were a talisman for him. They kept
him safe. They gave access to a spiritual world, where things were soft
and intimate, a place where he might someday take his girlfriend to live.
Like many of us in Vietnam, Dobbins felt the pull of superstition, and he
believed firmly and absolutely in the protective power of the stockings.
Later, when Dobbin's girlfriend dumps him, he still keeps the pantyhose, stating that their power doesn't go away.
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