The characters in "The Things They Carried" are notable because they do not change throughout the course of the story. The meaninglessness of the war, the lack of moral lesson, the sheer monotony of the "hump" through Vietnam offers no impetus to change or grow. The characters themselves are not so much marked by who they are as by the objects they carry, both physically and emotionally. Thus Henry Dobbins is the machine gunman who also carries his girlfriend's pantyhose wrapped around his neck as a comforter. Rat Kiley is the medic who also carries brandy and M&Ms, and Kiowa is an American Indian who carries both his Bible and his grandfather's hunting hatchet. They carry these things to try to ward off the void of reality that is their lives. They carry these things to try to find meaning in what they do, yet they can find none.
Even in the death of one of their own, the American soldiers can find no morality, no meaning to foster any change. Thus, Ted Lavender's death becomes a mockery and further fuels a sense of despair. It is Ted Lavender, the one who fears death most of all, who ultimately ends up dying in a fashion that lacks dignity and meaning. While the other soldiers are awaiting Lee Strunk's return from an underground tunnel, while they fear for his death in the middle of performing his duties, it is Ted Lavender who is killed while urinating, "zapped while zipping", shot down during the performance of a mundane function. Once again, there is no...
(The entire section is 489 words.)