Discussion Questions

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Discussion Questions

Post  Admin on Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:41 pm

Respond to one of the following, remember NO surface level answers. I will allow 4 responses to each questions, after which time I will close that question so all the questions will be answered.

1. Explain the metaphorical significance of the title. This question is now closed-5/4

2. List details you know about Martha.

3. Discuss possible reasons for O'Brien's emphasis on Martha.

4. What is symbolic about Jimmy Cross's name?

5. Find 3 terms you honestly don't know or need clarified.

6. Comment on the use of profanity in this book.

7. Identify the structure of this story. Is there a beginning, middle and end?

8. Can you establish a plot line? (exposition, rise in action, climax, fall in action, resolution)

9. What devices add credibility?

10. Write a brief analysis of Jimmy Cross's Martha. How does she strike you? What inferences can you make about her from Jimmy's description?

11. What is the significance of the name of the chapter "Spin"?

Post your question/observation for chapters 1-7. You must have yours posted as well as respond to 2 other student's threads by class on Thursday, May 5, 2011.


Last edited by Admin on Wed May 04, 2011 1:40 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Response to question #1

Post  Richard yacobellis on Sun May 01, 2011 12:47 am

The Things They Carried refers to tangible and intangible burden that each character bears. The tangible items include gear, weaponry, and various personal items that carry meaning towards the people they are carried by, while the intangible items are the feelings, thoughts, drives of each indivual or the group. Objects of a tangible nature are always described with their specific weight, making them almost seem trivial to the soldiers. They are able to be easily discarded by each character with barely a moment of forethought. On the other hand, the imaginary burdens are never given a comparative weight, yet they are the cause of most of the company's strained dispositions. Unlike the physical objects, these are barely, if at all possible, to be cast aside, adding a sense of permanency to them. What is most intriguing is the relationship between the two types of loads. Some items act as a representation of the intangible. Such items are asscoiatied with one or more of the respective characters' or the groups thoughts and emotions. Take, for example, Lt. Jimmy Cross' pebble. It serves as a reminder, albeit a painful one, of his love for Martha. The stone has also had the unintended consequence of becoming a percieved mockery of his sorrow and guilt. These few objects are a figurative anchor of the ephereal to reality, a link between the two.

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Response to Richard

Post  EmilyBland on Sun May 01, 2011 3:19 pm

I believe the first chapter of this book is foreshadowing the identity of the antagonist.The physical things that they carry mental are equivalent to the physical weight of the tangible items that they carry but are more antagonizing. The antagonist being the emotional barrens that are a affect of the war and ware on the protagonist. Therefor, I think that the outcome of the novel will result directly due to the emotional "things they carry".

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Question Six

Post  EmilyBland on Sun May 01, 2011 3:30 pm

I believe the use of profanity is symbolic. The word choice is almost a form of comfort for the men. In situations where a fellow solider dies, the men use profanity or have a term for the event. This gives the tragedy a casual angle making it easier to cope with. Also, the novel uses profanity in an attempt to support the authenticity of the soldiers' comments and language. It is stereotypical for military men to have "the mouth of a sailor" implying that they frequently use profanity. For the book not to contain profanity would make it seem unrealistic.

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The Metaphorical Significance of The Things They Carried

Post  briejones9 on Sun May 01, 2011 9:43 pm

The metaphorical significance of The Things They Carried symbolizes more than just things. The things they carried were burdens, fears, and secrets along with the material things they carried such as guns, candy, cigarettes, lighters, koolaid, matches, water, helmets, compass, maps, grenade launchers, and plastic explosives. But they also carried the burdens of the responsibility of their fellow men, fallen soldiers, pictures of those left behind at home, the thumb of a murdered enemy boy, malaria, dysentary, lice, ringworm, leeches, molds, earth, decay, and stink. The emotional baggage includes shameful memories, their reputations, their fear of blushing, their fear of letting fellow soldiers down. The central plot is not only the actual things they carried, but the shame Lieutenant Cross carried as a result of letting Ted Lavender die when he was shot in the head on the way back from urinating. Lt. Cross had been thinking about Martha when he should have been thinking about Ted Lavender, the war, and his men. Ted Lavender was killed because Lt. Cross loved Martha so much he could not stop thinking about her. He carried her with him. He was distracted from where he should have been focused, which was on his men and their safety. The growth he experiences as a result of this error is crucial to Cross' growth as a commanding officer..

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Question 6

Post  Shannon Christensen on Mon May 02, 2011 6:55 pm

The use of profanity in the novel adds a realistic portrayal of the soldiers and their experiences during the war. It serves to represent them as real people, not as stereotypical characters. Although some readers might consider the profanity distracting from the story, it actually plays a key role. The main conflict the soldiers face is maintaining their honor. In fact, at one point O'brien discusses how men died just because they didn't want to lose their honor. Therefore the soldiers relied on profanity to make themselves feel tougher, and they use rough language to distance themselves from the harsh realities of the war. O'brien even includes details of how they discuss Lavender's death, and how they cursed at dead bodies, and even cut a finger off one. Profanity was only one of the defense mechanisms the soldiers used to separate themselves from the war, thus making them feel like real, brave soldiers.


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Response to Question 4

Post  joeg3193 on Mon May 02, 2011 8:32 pm

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross' name serves as a powerful symbol in this book, and it lends itself in describing his role inn the platoon as well as his role in the book. The initials of his name, JC, are shared by Jesus Christ; in this way, as well as the fact that his last name is Cross, Jimmy's name is symbolic of a savior adn someone who faces the brunt of the atrocities of war. Like Chrsit, who suffered for his people, LT Jimmy Cross suffered for his men in many ways. He claimed the blame for both Lavender's death and Kiowa's death as well made a sacrifice (burning the picture of Martha) to prevent his distraction form his task. In these ways, Jimmy Cross is linked to Jesus Christ; and therefore, his name serves as a powerful sybol of religion in this book.

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Response to Joe

Post  Shannon Christensen on Mon May 02, 2011 9:23 pm

I agree with how you described the sacrifice Lt Cross made by burning Martha's picture. By burning her picture he symbolically relieved himself of the emotional burden her memory had on him. The memory of Martha distracted him from his duties and he felt personally responsible for the death of Ted Lavender because of it. The memory of Martha was only one of the things Lt Cross "carried" with him during the war, and the burning of her photograph in my opinion represented a revival, or perhaps a rebirth of Lt Cross; after burning her picture he decides to fully commit himself to his soldiers and to becoming the best leader he can be.

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Question #1

Post  mandaababyy14 on Mon May 02, 2011 10:12 pm

There are several reasons for a metaphorical significance of the title of the book "The Things They Carried." Each character has their burdens, both physical and emotional, that they must carry around with them while trying to survive in the war. From guns and ammo, to items that remind them of home and the loved ones left behind, each person must be able to fight for their country but also not forget who they are. As stated in the book on page 15, "They carried their own lives. The pressures were enormous." The war was a true test of bravery and courage when one of the most significant things that they carried was fear. The emotional burdens out-weighed the physical burdens from love, comfort and most importantly when out in combat with their unit, reputations. Each man had to overcome the "weight of the world" and come together to defend their country and each other in time of war.

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Response to Question # 1

Post  Daniel Spinazzola on Tue May 03, 2011 11:16 pm

The metaphorical significance of the title "The Things They Carried" helped to add to the emotional impact the Vietnam War had on the characters. It is metaphorical in that they not only held heavy weights through the physical cargo they carried (metioned specifically to each soldier of Cross's unit in the first chapter), but also the emotional weight given to them by the grief of the war in general. Although each soldier in Cross's unit had specific grievences that worsened their wartime, the overall problem for every Vietnam soldier seemed to be home-sickness. These men were forcefully drafted to Vietnam, leaving thier families and future goals behind to go to, essentially, another world. They were forced to risk their lives on a daily basis to fight in a, said to be, "undetermined" war. These terrorizing grievences instilled a strong sense of emotional burden/weight on the soldiers that more or less weighed greater than the physical things they carried. To lessen the extent of these burdens, each soldier carried specific, personal items that comforted them in times of hardship during the war. These personal items helped to "lessen the weight" that each soldier carried so that they could be strong and continue their war-time duties.


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Question 6

Post  cody young on Wed May 04, 2011 6:29 pm

This novel uses profanity in an attempt to support the authenticity of the soldiers'
comments and language. Frequent uses of the words "fuck", "shit", "hell", "ass", "bitch", all help to accurately portray the way soldiers talked during the war and the ways in which they coped with the horrors they experienced throughout the war.
O' Brien includes multiple violent scenes including war battles, shootings, and accidental deaths.
There are brief references to smoking marijuana as well as multiple references to sexual situations. All of this is purposely used by O' Brien to accurately portray to the reader the full extent of what the soldiers went through on a daily basis.

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Question 2

Post  Stephvil on Wed May 04, 2011 10:39 pm

Well to start off Martha is Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s love interest from back home, he adores her and keeps letters and pictures of her to connect himself to a time in which he was once by her side. Though Martha seems to have no interest in Cross, and years after the war he runs into her at a college reunion in which Cross truly realizes Martha was a fond memory of the past and she will never feel the same love for him as he does for her. That night Cross learns that Martha never married and goes on to add that she does not understand why and later provides Cross with a new picture of herself (a similar volleyball picture) telling him not to burn it this time, as he had burnt any trace of Martha in a rage of guilt for Ted Lavender’s death. Opinion wise I think Martha’s purpose was to provide Cross with hope and strength thought out the war be it with her pictures or his incentive to lead his troops better following the death of Lavender. Overall Martha was a character who played a key role in the life of Jimmy Cross, in the past and present.

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Response to Emily Bland

Post  mandaababyy14 on Wed May 04, 2011 11:00 pm

Emily proves to have a significant point on the use of profanity in the novel. The language used by the men does make it seem realistic. It helps the reader create a mental picture of what the troops must have gone through and the pains that they had to carry and endure. Without the correct use of profanity, the reader would lose interest based on the fact that it would have come across as unrealistic. Overall, the use of the foul language helps create the tone and the emotion of the book.

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Response to Joe Gargano

Post  mandaababyy14 on Wed May 04, 2011 11:06 pm

Joe clearly displays his understanding of the relation between Jimmy Cross and Jesus Christ in the novel. Jimmy Cross' burdens seem much more important than those of the other men due to the stress of his issues in each of the chapters. This is similar to how Jesus Christ is a man that many people tend to emphasize based on the hardships that he had to go through. After trying to overcome his feelings for Martha and witnessing one of his fellow soldiers being shot he carries a huge weight on his soldiers similar to Jesus Christ. Joe's support for his statement falls true to the information inside the book.

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Response to Richard

Post  Stephvil on Wed May 04, 2011 11:17 pm

I agree, The title signifies baggage not just in the apparent physical manner but the emotional as well. It infers to the experiences and memories these soldiers will forever remember, the fear, guilt, and death that even years after the war they carry in their thoughts and even worse nightmares. The concept of war stories defines this adequately, the narrator goes on to tell a story of Curt Lemon’s death and how he and Dave Jensen were ordered to shinny up and peel his body off a tree, though he goes on to add that all he can remember and worse the part that till the present wakes him up at night is Jensen singing “Lemon Tree” as they threw down the parts detail an emotional tie that will forever connect these individuals to a war they fought, even as the years carry on the memories remain. On the physical aspect each soldier had things they carried, be it good luck charms, picture from back home, or weapons none the less they carried them from confrontation to confrontation. And the title sums up the basic concept of the book, by hinting at the basic meaning but as you read on explores the reality of what each solider lives on to carry.

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