What does Martha represent to Cross in "The Things They Carried"?

In "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien, Martha to Cross represents an idealized version of the life he has left behind at home. Fantasizing about her allows him to at least partially shut out the horrible realities of war that are all around him.

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In the linked series of fictionalized stories about his experiences during the Vietnam War The Things They Carried, author Tim O'Brien tells of Jim Cross's infatuation with Martha in the first chapter, also called "The Things They Carried." Cross's most treasured possessions are letters from Martha and photographs of her, which he keeps wrapped in plastic in his rucksack. O'Brien emphasizes that "they were not love letters," but Cross gets them out often to hold and read. As the platoon marches through the jungle, Cross remembers a movie date that he went on with Martha and imagines romantic excursions that he and Martha can take together.

Cross blames his distractedness in fantasizing about Martha all the time for the death of Ted Lavender, who is abruptly shot one day. At the end of that day, Cross digs a hole, goes inside, and mourns. O'Brien writes:

He felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1043 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 21, 2020