The Things They Carried Questions and Answers
by Tim O’Brien

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What is the role of women in The Things They Carried?

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bwestbrook eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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No one yet has mentioned Mary Ann, who "came over clean and got dirty."  Rat Kiley tells the story of Fossie who brings over his sweet seventeen year old girlfriend and loses her to the mystery and the horror or Viet Nam. She becomes fascinated by the land and the people and she says she wants to "eat it," even as she herself is consumed by it. She represents the girls at home who couldn't possibly understand what the men go through as they continue on with their lives back in America.  The men feel these women could not understand unless they'd "been through it," so O'Brien brings one...

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Kristy Wooten eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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kdupuy | Student

There are definately different roles of women in the things they carried, but i think the only main role that those who answered before me didn't mention, was that women represented the part of life that soldiers were losing by being soldiers.

All the soldiers were young, before marrying age, and instead of being home, and being able to meet and marry the women and become part of the average suburban family with 2.5 kids, they were in Viet Nam, often times regressing to deal with their problems.  The women they knew had lives that the soldiers couldn't, with men who weren't soldiers.  They were moving on while the soldiers had to deal with moving forward.  For instance, Sally, is completely one dimensional, and all that's really spoken about her is the fact that she is married.  Because she only serves the purpose of being unattainable and representing the lives the soldiers should be working toward.

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msoell | Student

Another woman character that we see briefly in this story is O’Brien’s daughter Kathleen, although touched on very briefly. She is brought up at the end of Chapter 2; Love. O'Brien recalls Kathleen asking her father why he doesn't write stories about love and belonging; a kind of happy story with a happy ending. O’Brien uses this to show that not all stories do and will have happy endings, and you sometimes just have to accept the cruelties of humans and human nature. He is referencing the earlier part of this chapter when talking about Lieutenant Cross and his relationship, or lack thereof, with Martha.

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