In Company; he carried letters and photographs of Martha,

In “The Things They Carried” is about the character Lieutenant Cross; he is the leader of the Alpha Company during the Vietnam War. During the war, he carries the necessary items with him and photographs and letters from women named Martha. She is not his girlfriend, but he is madly in love with her, and throughout the war, he daydreams and fantasies about her. His fantasies about her become so often that he stopped paying attention to his job as a leader, and begins to focus on Martha more. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross starts to feel guilty every time one of his men dies. He starts feeling unsure of how to lead his men, but after reaching a black hole, he realizes that he is getting sidetracked by his loved one, Martha. He decides to become a better leader to his men and decides to put his foot up front, taking him out of the way and bringing him home with mental damage. Jimmy Cross was the leader of Alpha Company; he carried letters and photographs of Martha, his classmate that he was madly in love with. During the war, these belongings brought the most powerful, confident, and fearless leader to a black hole. The traditional training Jimmy Cross received made him a weak leader. The training required him to be concerned more with marching in line, following preset maps, and keeping guns clean rather than adjusting to his environment, the necessities and perspective of his soldiers. Kathryn Clark mentions that the soldiers in the book did not only carry the necessary items and personal items to survive in war, but they also brought the weight for the loss of their fellow soldiers. According to Clark, “The weights they carried couldn’t be left behind, and for some of the soldiers in O’Brien’s unit, they carried these intangible weights for more than twenty years after returning home from war.” (Clark, K. 2009). They were not only stuck in a black hole during the war, but even after they got back home, they could never forgive themselves or forget whatever happened during the Vietnam War. Jimmy Cross was the leader of the Alpha Company but was not part of the company; he would separate himself from his men to maintain a position of authority that he could never manage if not for his superior rank. He never demonstrates leadership, but instead is granted it by decree. He lives with the knowledge that he is a leader, but is always petrified of that role. For example, Lt. Cross attempts to persuade himself of his competence by relying on the standard operating procedure after Lavender is killed as a means to exonerate himself from feelings of personal culpability in Lavender’s death as well as his pathetic neediness for Martha’s love. Another defect that Jimmy Cross has personally and mentally is the incapacity to lead his company. Jimmy, jealously guards a picture he has of his love, that is not his girlfriend to remember his life back at home. Him looking at the photograph of Martha keeps him calm during the Vietnam War. By staring at Martha’s picture to remember home, he fails to recognize, how love and war are connected. He cannot be both in love and fighting for his country; just like the ideal relationship with his beloved Martha is a lie, and so is his leadership duties as a soldier. Jimmy Cross was dependant on Martha; he fantasized about them being together to feel like he was safe and to feel like he was home again. His fantasies about Martha during combat duty led to the death of one of his soldiers, Ted Lavender. Jimmy Cross starts to notice he is putting himself down by allowing this to happen, so he decides to burn her pictures to bring him and his soldiers back to America.


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