It serves to show the contrast between the story O'Brien wrote and what he actually received from Bowker. Bowker had dropped out of community college and instead spent his mornings in bed, his afternoons playing pickup games of basketball, and his nights driving around aimlessly. Dobbins tells Kiowa he might become a monk after the war, but confesses he could never be a minister because he can't answer the hard questions about life and death. Martha spent her post-college years doing volunteer service, and Cross spent his killing people in Vietnam. So it isn't so much that Cross is thinking about Martha.
They march just to march, not really thinking about where they're going. He borrowed imagery from the memory of his own hometown. Twenty years later, Tim brings his young daughter to the riverbank and buries his friend's shoes in the mud. Lee Strunk carries a slingshot, Mitchell Sanders carries brass knuckles, and Kiowa carries his grandfather's hatchet. In the end, she becomes a killer and disappears into the mountains by herself.
There's one other minor character who is particularly notable. After Strunk returns from a few days in medical care, Jensen becomes paranoid that Strunk will retaliate by killing him. Later, when the soldiers have left the village, Azar dances like the girl in a mocking way. She tries to learn the Vietnamese language and culture, and she eventually falls in with a group of Green Berets, the Special Forces tasked with waging unconventional warfare. As Bowker drives around a lake in his Iowa hometown, he thinks that he failed to save Kiowa, who was killed when a mortar round hit and caused him to sink headfirst into a marshy field. He was now determined to perform his duties firmly and without negligence; he would not tolerate laxity.
As a writer, O'Brien constantly analyzes and comments upon how stories are told and why they are told. When Dobbins' girlfriend breaks up with him, he still wears the stockings and says the magic didn't leave. Bowker says he would write the story, but he can't put into words the things he saw, especially Kiowa sinking dead into the mud. Descriptions of the things each of the men carry is given, which adds specificity, detail, and personality to each character. Azar is not a likable guy.
The theme of carrying is an important one throughout the text, and the title story provides the most comprehensive examination of this idea. He was buried with Martha under the white sand at the Jersey shore. As the months passed, O'Brien pushed the thoughts of the failed story out of his mind. He went to war, he says, because he was a coward. He plays cruel pranks, cracks cruel jokes, and if that's not enough to make you not like him, he blows up a puppy with a mine. As he throws out her letters and her pebble, he is giving up the hope that has led him through the war so far.
Later, Kiowa drowns in a field that's literally full of poop, and we start to talk about blame. He remembers believing the war was wrong, and wanting to run away to Canada. They not only dehumanize their victims to relieve themselves of the burden of killing, they also dehumanize each other to cope with the deaths of their comrades. The two of them saw a movie once, and he touched her knee, and he wishes that he'd carried her up to her room and tied her to the bed and touched her knee all night. He finds he can't talk to anyone--no one will listen, or could understand if they did listen--and everything he does seems silly and irrelevant. Henceforth, when he thought about Martha, it would be only to think that she belonged elsewhere. He requests that O'Brien write a story about a guy like him, who feels like he's come back dead from the war and spends his days driving around.
Kathleen Kathleen represents a reader who has the capability of responding to the author. In The Things They Carried, it's not so much the plot that ties the book together as it is the major ideas of the book, so let's take a closer look at these important ideas. The two monks like the soldiers, but they particularly love Henry Dobbins. He even tells O'Brien that things from his letter can be used, but he requests that O'Brien change his name. And while their moods seem relaxed, the men are not carefree. Kiowa contended that the young man would have died anyway.
He recalls the image of the young man outside of My Khe and how the memory haunts him still, but in his memories the young man keeps walking down the path and survives. The different items carried in the backpacks serve to humanize and individualize the soldiers. All focus on the Alpha Company and the fate of its soldiers after they return home to America. Mark Fossie invites his girlfriend Mary Anne over to Vietnam because he believes her presence might save him from the horrors before him. He was twenty-four years old.