What is it that Jimmy Cross can't forgive himself for in The Things They Carried?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is the leader of his company in Vietnam.  He did not want the job but was picked to go to officer's school because he was well educated.  The first thing he can't forgive himself for is the death of Lavendar.  Lavendar is shot in the head while the company is resting.  Cross is daydreaming about Martha, a girl back home who seemingly doesn't have any romantic interest in Cross.  He, however, dreams about her and symbolically cherishes the innocence she represents.  He should have been more aware of his surroundings when Lavendar was shot.  He let SOP (standard operating procedure) become lax and blames himself for not being in control of the situation.  In the chapter "In the Field", Cross decides the company will camp in a field near a village.  He again daydreams about Martha during the night, shirking his duties.  Unfortunately, the field gets bombed and Kiowa is killed.  He is later found buried in the muck of the field, and we discover that they had camped in a field full of human waste from the village.  Cross suffers from the guilt of Kiowa's death and burns the pictures of Martha, swearing he will tighten up the ranks of his company.  It is a burden Jimmy Cross has to carry the rest of his life.  He feels responsible for the death of the two men because he wasn't equipped to lead, and more importantly, he wasn't equipped emotionally to fight in a war.

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The Things They Carried

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