The Things They Carried Essay

Submitted By MarcKantrowitz1
Words: 2016
Pages: 9

The role of women in the book The Things They Carried is an important one. These men have various views and feeling about the women they love, the women they hate, and the women that they may not know and can only dream of. While the text given to the ideas of women is small is stature, it is quite significant in meaning. There are three main women that enter and disrupt the lives of the Alpha company; Mary-Ann, Martha, and Henry Dobbin's girlfriend, who remains unnamed. The men carry letters, rocks, and even pantyhose to remind them of the women back home, and that which they hope to return to. The relationships between the men of Alpha company and their significant females are not always as they might hope, and in fact, seem to be as much of a burden and a problem as they are a reminder of what it is they want.
Want. This word seems to play a key role in the roles that the women play for our main characters. Jimmy Cross wants to be with Martha. He wants to be able to believe that she is in fact, a virgin. "Her legs, he thought, were almost certainly the legs of a virgin, dry and without hair." Jimmy touched that knee on the one date that he went on with Martha, and speaks about what he should have done that night. "He should've carried her up the stairs to her room and tied her to the bed and touched that left knee all night long" . Even in fantasy Jimmy seems to have respect for Martha, and her virginity. He speaks of touching her knee all night while most of the other men in Alpha company probably would have had a more R-rated version of the events had they unfolded. Jimmy wants to believe that Martha is a virgin because it tells him that maybe somewhere deep down she truly does love him and is waiting for him. "Then at full dark he would return to his hole and watch the night and wonder is Martha was a virgin." He recognizes the ideas that she may not be a virgin, and even acknowledges that there are other men in her life. Jimmy knows that Martha has many boyfriends, and when he receives a picture from her in the mail, wonders who the photographer was. He treasures the picture and takes it everywhere with him, and yet the small shadow in the picture of the man taking it seems to be his focal point. He wants to focus purely on his unrequited love for Martha, but he can't. He seems to force himself to understand that she does not actually love him. She will never be his, and he knows that somewhere inside him, but continues to imagine that the love that she signs at the end of her letters is really a romantic love.
Mary-Anne was a completely different story all together. "The way Rat told it, she came in by helicopter along with the daily resupply shipment out of Chi Lai. A tall big-boned blonde." She came from the sky like it was no big deal, to see her boyfriend Fossie. A girl coming into a war among the rations and medicine. She was barely a woman, only 17, and when she came to join them at the medical camp she was described as, "had long white legs and blue eyes and a complexion like strawberry ice cream. Very friendly too." It was the "very friendly" part that should have been the problem. It was a war, and suddenly an attractive woman comes into a camp of men that haven't seen a woman in a long time. We should have seen fights break out, maybe even Mary-Anne ending up in the arms of another man, but strangely it was curiosity that seemed to cause the most problems. "The war intrigued her. The land, too, and the mystery." Mary-Anne wanted to learn about the land, the people, the war, even how the guns worked and how to cook her own food. She went from the innocent young girl in culottes to a woman that wanted knowledge of the war and the world around her. In the time period that this was experienced it seems that this was the opposite of what a man might like for his future wife. Fossie wanted a young girl that he could go home to and marry, have 3 children, and a happy cookie-cutter home, and little did he know…