What are two important friendships in The Things They Carried and how do they relate to its vision of the Vietnam experience?

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mitchrich4199 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first important friendship that O'Brien illustrates and is very important to the Vietnam experience is with Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. In the second story, entitled "Love," O'Brien goes to meet Jimmy at his home in Massachusetts. He discusses the events that took place during the war, and in particular, Jimmy's guilt over the death of Ted Lavender. "Many years after the war... Jimmy rubbed his eyes and said he'd never forgiven himself for Lavender's death." This illustrates that the war sticks with a soldier forever. In his books, O'Brien has illustrated that theme throughout. Later on in the book, O'Brien recounts his own experience with killing a man in "The Man I Killed." O'Brien incorporates many versions of the victim's life that he has imagined in the years since the war. That guilt has never left him.

Another friendship that is important to O'Brien is with Kiowa. In "The Man I Killed," Kiowa is constantly trying to get Tim to talk about the man, to say something. He tries to reason with O'Brien saying "All right, let me ask you a question...You want to trade places with him? Turn it all upside down-you want that? I mean, be honest." Kiowa's experience in the war allows him to understand that Tim can't dwell on what is done and can't be undone. He's doing everything he can to get Tim's attention, so that Tim doesn't get himself killed because of the distraction. This is an important friendship that  Tim appreciates throughout the war and beyond.

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The Things They Carried

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