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The Things They Carried

by Tim O’Brien

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Discuss how "The Things They Carried" presents the idea that love can be destructive.

Quick answer:

To write an essay discussing the idea that love can be destructive and relating this idea to "The Things They Carried," one might consider the perspective of the protagonist. Jimmy Cross is likely to agree with the idea that love can be destructive. His thoughts and feelings about Martha cloud his mind as he goes about his daily routine of leading his platoon through the perils of Vietnam.

Expert Answers

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To write an essay with the theme that love can be destructive, looking at how Jimmy Cross's feelings about Martha influence his behavior would be helpful.

Jimmy is infatuated with Martha, if not in love with her. His obsessive thoughts about their time together keeps him somewhat preoccupied and perhaps distracted as he and his platoon are on foot patrol each day. Although readers understand that Ted Lavender's death could not have been prevented, because he was killed by a well-hidden sniper, Jimmy nonetheless blames himself for not protecting his men.

The love that Jimmy feels for Martha may also be considered destructive because it seems to the reader that it might be one-sided. She is warm toward him, but it is not a fully developed and reciprocated feeling. Though Jimmy might want more from Martha, it is not clear that he will ever get it from her.

In light of what happens to Ted Lavender, it is likely that Jimmy Cross would agree with the idea that love can be destructive. His actions of tossing away the pebble she sent him and burning her picture and letters suggest that he believes his feelings toward Martha are getting in the way of his mission in Vietnam.

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