Character Comparison in Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”

Subject: Literature
Pages: 5
Words: 1378
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor

The story’s principal theme is the eternal conflict between life and death. First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the likeable protagonist of “The Things They Carried,” confronts the conflicting emotions of love, hatred, and war on a more personal basis. The author, Tim O’Brien, recalls his tour of service during the Vietnam War in his book. This short novella delves into the inner problems of a few specific servicemen and how they chose to react to the realities of the Vietnam War as soldiers. The essay compares two female characters, Linda and Mary Anne Bell. The two women tend to intrigue the audience through their personalities and deeds in the fiction. Both women had experiences fear in their lives, had lovers, cared, and obsessed, all of which is discussed in the paper.

Linda is better described by the word scared than by any other. A sense of impending annihilation at times seems to struck her. For instance, there is a situation in which Linda became nervous in front of her classmates during a class session (O’Brien 67). O’Brien regrets not standing up to the youngster in their class mocking Linda by attempting to rip the hat off her head. When seen this way, Linda and this story embody the lessons he learned and continue to learn about courage while studying. In addition to resurrecting Linda, the act of telling this narrative teaches him that bravery is a trait that can be developed through time and with work.

On the other side, Mary Ann decides to go on the arduous voyage from the United States to Vietnam so that she may be with her lover, Mark Fossie. Mary Ann seems timid and naive when she first meets O’Brien due to her anxiety over the war, which she believes will one day result in her passing away (O’Brien 54). As a result of her experiences fighting on the battlefields of Vietnam throughout the war, she develops an unhealthy preoccupation with the struggle, which, in the end, leads to her developing a pretentious attitude about courage. After hearing the end of the narrative, Mary Anne’s terror and innocence are no longer there. She still wears a necklace made of human tongues to adorn her gorgeous pink sweater, even though its been a while since we have seen her.

Consequently, in “The Things They Carried,” Linda’s personality illuminates a ray of love. O’Brien first encounters genuine love via Timmy’s girlfriend Linda, whom he initially met in fourth grade. This devotion is as genuine as O’Brien’s background in the Midwest (O’Brien 19). On their date, they see a war movie together and, for the first time, they associate love with violence. The situation is exacerbated further by the fact that O’Brien’s tale about Linda eventually becomes the account of her death; he feels remorseful. One of the book’s primary themes, the unbreakable relationship between love and death, is advanced in the setting of Linda’s experience. Timmy does not fall in love with Linda and then lose her; instead, he feels the same way about love and death, which is why he loves Linda so much.

Mary Anne’s depiction of passionate love is the most genuine in the literature. Mark Fossie is the only soldier who takes his girlfriend to visit him, even though Lieutenant Cross and Henry Dobbins carry mementoes of a former love (O’Brien 112). She is said to have arrived in Vietnam dressed like an All-American girl from the neighborhood and was wearing pretty clothes. We find out that she and Mark have been dating since they were in the sixth grade, and their plans include getting married, having three children, and living in a quaint tiny home in the suburbs. According to O’Brien (113), love and war are not merely related; they are analogous in that both choose to disregard the consequences of daily life on their emotions. Mary Anne is considered one of the most trustworthy characters in the novel since she lives her existence on her emotions and can swing between loving and hostile attitudes with such ease.

The trait of obsession plays a significant role in Mary Anne Bell’s personality. In the story, she is portrayed as an outsider who is not a part of the community and does not belong there. The story of Mary Anne serves as an illustration of how a person’s surroundings may affect them. She came to Vietnam wearing gorgeous clothing and dressed like an All-American girl from the neighborhood (O’Brien 179). This is the story that has been passed down. The fact that she is removing her jewelry indicates adjusting to her new role as a soldier. She adopts a sombre approach to contribute more to the war effort, and as a result, she ceases being the carefree and naïve person she used to be. She forms a new and unfortunate routine as a direct consequence of her traumas throughout the war. After much contemplation, she finally concludes that she wants to get rid of the picture of the helpless and weak child that has been haunting her impression of herself, so she cuts her hair short.

Tim O’Brien depicts Linda as being obsessed with herself. He notices that Linda often had a red cap on. He later notices that Linda has a brain tumor, and her hair is falling, ultimately killing her. O’Brien was not aware of Linda’s sickness initially. He describes Linda as wearing something on her head, for beauty, at any given time (O’Brien 31). Later on, after the date, he is informed about Linda’s health; O’Brien realizes that it is not an obsession with Linda’s appearance but is only trying to hide her falling hair.

Additionally, Mary Anne is seen as a caring girlfriend. He left had left her pantyhose at Henry’s house for remembrance. Before embarking on his expedition, Henry tied his sweetheart’s pantyhose around his neck, which he believed was a symbol of fortune. He slept with them because he appreciated the memories that they generated. Even after Henry’s ex-girlfriend broke up with him, he never stopped wearing her pantyhose (O’Brien 132). Henry feels the charm safeguards a portion of his heart and soul. It is as if he were back in his homeroom. It is the love and cares that Mary Anne had for Henry believed that the pantyhose could help to conceal the loving element of his personality. Henry holds a bundle of cloth that represents his feeling of connection and devotion to caring he received from his ex-girlfriend, Mary Anne.

O’Brien finds a purpose for his writing, thanks to Linda. O’Brien has a vision of Linda appearing to him after she has passed away and telling him to stop sobbing and that death is meaningless, depicting that Linda is caring (O’Brien 212). O’Brien uses writing to convey Linda’s tale to resurrect her life or, to put it another way, to rescue Linda’s life. Writing is an artistic endeavor and an antidote to the devastation caused by conflict and death. Bowker’s need for O’Brien to recount his narrative is identical to the desire that O’Brien has to remember Linda via writing, which is in and of itself an activity that maintains life by resurrecting the spirits of the departed. On the other hand, Mary Ann’s insatiable curiosity about the conflict compels her to go to Vietnam to see her lover. Nevertheless, when he is in Vietnam, he marries the culture and begins to acquire hubris. He walks about with a tongue strung around his neck as a necklace and visits various sites while forgetting that the nation is in the midst of a war.

Both Linda and Mary Anne Bells in Tim O’Brien’s novel “The Things They Carried” have similar characteristics, despite being thrust into quite different situations. This has been shown through a comparison between the two main characters. The emotions such as fear, love, care, and obsession are glossed over in this essay; however, with slight variations in the setting and the ages of the characters, for example, Linda’s life is centered in the United States, and all of the events take place while she is still a child. Mary Anne, on the other hand, has her entire story take place in Vietnam, beginning when she first arrived there to visit her boyfriend.

Work Cited

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Mariner Books, 2009.