Jimmy Cross’ Guilt
Vietnam. The time of uncertain war. The time of the draft. The time of guilt and the time of guilt-ridden veterans, some of which suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychological reaction to a traumatic event such as warfare (Watson 205). The fictitious Jimmy Cross, from Tim O‘Brien‘s The Things They Carried was First Lieutenant and Platoon Leader of the Alpha Company. Through his college’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, he was thrust into the Vietnam War only to be confronted with betrayal guilt: guilt for loving Martha, Cross’ lady-love who is back at home attending college in New Jersey, and guilt for the death of Ted Lavender, one of the men in his platoon who died while Cross was daydreaming of Martha.
When the United States entered Vietnam in 1961, Mark Bradley writes in his book, Triumph Forsaken, they entered under the claim that the country was “[intervening] to block the apparent march of a Soviet-dominated communism across Asia” (Bradley 130). To this day there is much controversy on what the United States’ motives actually were. In Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, this had an effect on one of the major characters, Jimmy Cross. He and his men felt that it “was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost. They marched for the sake of the march” ( O’Brien 15). They were not able to see a purpose for the war as they aimlessly carried the weight of duty, God, and country.
Some men went into Vietnam willing to die for their country while others went in kicking and screaming through the draft. Others, like Jimmy Cross, got mixed up with the war due to the collegiate Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs. Overall, the total number of Americans that served in Vietnam was 2,709,918 (“Vietnam War Facts” 15). According to Bruce Bower’s “Stress Rates”,...