War transformations to further an idea in a
War Time Changes: The Transformation of Jimmy Cross Many authors tend to use character transformations to further an idea in a story. Tim O’Brien’s story “The Things They Carried” has an open ending, which he uses to signal a new beginning with the transformation of Jimmy Cross.
The transformation greatly ties in with one of the major themes of the story, that war changes people. Tim O’Brien provides his audience with a very descriptive image of both the physical and mental “things” the characters in the story carried. He gives the reader insight as to how the characters are physically and mentally dealing with the turmoil of the war.However, in the end of the story – Jimmy Cross – a round character, reacts to the death of Ted Lavender, and decides to grow up.
To begin with, Jimmy Cross blames himself for the death of Ted Lavender. He believes that Ted died because of his own irresponsibility. He feels this way, since at the time of Ted’s death, Jimmy was in a fantasy land dreaming about himself and Martha buried “.
.. under the white sand at the Jersey shore. “(101) Jimmy tried to fight off the images, but he was unable to, for “he was just a kid at war, in love. (101) Lieutenant Cross did not tell Ted Lavender to go off by himself, but since Jimmy was responsible for the well-being of all the men, he held himself responsible. The death of Ted Lavender jolts Cross into action, forcing him to realize that his fantasies of Martha have been causing him to neglect his duties. Thus, Jimmy comes to the conclusion that if he had not been pre- occupied with thoughts of being with Martha, Ted Lavender wouldn’t have been shot.
In fact, there was a scale in Cross’ mind; either to be a responsible leader and take care of his men or continue to think about Martha, day and night, during the war.Obviously, Jimmy could not choose both because the cruel war did not allow him to handle both at the same time which we see when Cross handles the tunnel duty. As O’Brien described Jimmy Cross “He felt shame.
He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war,”(103) we realize that Jimmy Cross was able to accept the heavy duty as a leader. Jimmy’s transformation begins when he decides to burn the pictures and letters of his girlfriend, Martha.To be a leader in war was meaningless to Jimmy Cross compared to the love he had for Martha. Cross’ subsequent burning of Martha’s letters suggests that he’s determined to put such romantic ideas behind him.
He repeatedly convinces himself that there will be no more fantasies about Martha. The burning of Martha’s things is symbolically used by O’Brien to signify a turning point in Cross’ development. Cross realizes that Martha’s feelings for him were not those of love, for she is an English major, a girl who lives in the world of words.Cross was rationalizing his un-requiting love for Martha to create a “home world” inside his mind so that he could mentally escape from the war when he needed to. Aside from abandoning the letters and pictures, Jimmy Cross also abandons his innocence. He wants to concentrate on the responsibilities of leading his men, for “he was now determined to perform his duties firmly and without negligence.
” The new lieutenant Cross would dispose of the good luck pebble, issue “new SOP’s, and would confiscate the remainder of Lavender’s dope. Overall, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross would accept the blame for what had happened to Ted Lavender.Although Lieutenant Jimmy Cross uses Martha as simply a way to remember home, in the end he decides to leave the images of his past behind. Jimmy goes through a transformation as he abandons his innocence and matures into a lieutenant. In conclusion, Jimmy Cross first loved Martha more and cared less for his men and then transformed into a man who wanted to be a good leader and fulfill his duties.
Works Cited O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried. ” 1990. 97-107. Rpt. in Literature, An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Edgar Roberts, Robert Zweig.
5th ed. Boston, MA: Longman-Pearson, 2012.