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The Problem of Surviving Things

Updated September 6, 2022

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The Problem of Surviving Things essay

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Tim OBrien faces Jimmy Cross with the problem of surviving while fighting in Vietnam. While trying to maintain his sanity, Jimmy struggles between his old self and the person he has to become.

Jimmy has to make some difficult decisions while in his tour, and most of them come to his attention after his friend Ted Lavender is killed. Jimmys main struggle in dealing with his friends death is to figure out a way he can become a better leader. He wants to lead his troop with confidence and preciseness. Before his friends death, Jimmy had constructed a bulwark to separate him from the rest of the troop. Jimmy was in his own world, mainly back in New Jersey with Martha, but sometimes in a fantasy world where nothing felt real and he would do amazing things like fly over Vietnam waving the whole madness goodbye.

His misconception of fantasy and reality is one of the first things that he changes about himself in order to become a better leader. Making this decision was near impossible, the pictures that he had become inured to seeing everyday were put to flame and Martha was no longer in his thoughts. By burning those pictures he not only breaks free from the fantasy world, but also of Martha. She was a girl back home who he had loved dearly, and had remained in contact with throughout the war. His infatuation with Martha was not a sexual one, but one that had something much greater weight towards his survival. He did not think about Martha day in and day out because she was his only true love of the world; he merely needed something to occupy his mind with.

He needed something to keep his thoughts away from the horrible tragedies going on around him. He was trying to maintain his hope. Martha gave him a goal, something to shoot for, a reason not to give up. So easy, really. Go limp and tumble to the ground and let the muscles unwind and not speak and not budge until your buddies picked you up and lifted you into the chopper.

Because of Martha Jimmy cross could not let go. He could not make himself quit. Part of this great determination came from his conflict with fear and courage. Jimmy and his men were not very courageous, they did not do heroic things, and they did not even fight in many battles.

But this did not make them cowards. They acted in a courageous way but were far from it. They carried a soldiers greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Although the men could have easily lain down and quit fighting they did not do so.

For what would the other men think? Not everyone had to act in a cowardice manner just because that is how everyone felt. Scared of what others might think cost many lives during the war. Jimmy Cross needed to figure out a way to stop the wasting of precious lives and start saving some. He needed to unite his troops into one, and reduce everyones individuality. In a time of war you should have no friends. If you take the time to know the person then you are only getting yourself emotionally attached to that person, and when it comes time to act with your mind not your emotions you will hesitate therefore putting all of your mens lives at risk.

Jimmy could not have that in his squadron. He needed to overcome another great hurdle in his strive for complete leadership. Individuality against Conformity. Everyone in the story had there own things they carried, some carried lucky pebbles like Jimmy and others carried the New Testament like Kiowa.

Jimmy needed to find a way to unite everyone under the sole basis of their missions. They all needed to be soldiers. Jimmy decided to lead by example, when he tossed the lucky pebble away and burned his pictures, he intended for everyone to follow. Jimmy knew that each men would have to carry certain weight that could not be measured in units because it was inside them. Kiowa, for example, who had to learn how to deal with balancing his true emotions with the weight of being a Christian.

He knew that even though Ted Lavender had died he should not feel relieved that it was not he who had taken the fatal bullet, but sorrow and grief. Even though Kiowa had a serious internal battle to fight, Jimmy had it worse. He felt shame. He heated himself.

He had loved Martha more then his men, and as a consequence Lavender was dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone for the rest of the war.”

The Problem of Surviving Things essay

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The Problem of Surviving Things. (2019, Jun 07). Retrieved from