Emotional Connections to Objects in “The Things They Carried” and “One Art”

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Emotional connections to objects

In the two texts, the characters are both figurative and literal. From the onset of both texts, emotional connections are noted as the characters not only carry heavy physical loads, but also heavy loads of emotions composed of love, terror, grief, and longing. For instance, in “The Things They Carried”, every man’s physical burden is underscored by his emotional burden. For one, Jimmy Cross carries maps and compasses which signifies his responsibility to the men is in charge of and in the same vein, Henry Dobbins walks around with his girlfriend’s pantyhose which indicates the longing for comfort and love (O’Brien 21). Similarly, in “One Art”, Bishop carries the weight of great loss which she masks into a structured form of villanelle (Bishop 4). In fact, she fashions the art of losing by connecting objects to emotions in the case of door keys and time spent.

Faced with the fear of losing reputation, the Alpha Company members carry heavy burdens of maintaining their status in the “The Things They Carried”. In addition, men carry psychological burdens even after the war (O’Brien 28). The same emotional connection to objects is witnessed in “One Art” where Bishop uses intangible notions and inanimate objects to express her desire to hold on to things without losing them. Lost in her inability to discern between never recoverable and potentially recoverable items, Bishop ties emotions to objects such as keys (Bishop 7). In order to paint a clear picture of their motifs, both texts resolve to employ the art of objectification where needful. Consequently, the characters suffer emotional distress in the process.

What happens to people when they lose or let things go?

Upon undergoing a series of losses, grief, and terror, people experience changes. For example, Bishop likens her loss of loved ones, continent, some realms, two rivers and two cities to a disaster. In this case, it can be said that loss and grief shudders peoples’ emotions and seeps away their happiness. In “Love”, Jimmy Cross does not forgive himself for Lavender’s death and seeks confinement in O’Brien. Likewise, Norman Bowker drives aimlessly in his hometown in “Speaking of Courage” due to his confusion and grief. Based on these examples, it can noted that loss and grief cause confusion and self-blame among people. In “The Things They Carried”, Bowker feels confused while Cross blames himself for Ted Lavender’s death (O’Brien 36). This aspect deliberates that when people feel aggrieved, their thinking is hampered and cannot function correctly.

Bishop seems to have lost many things to the extent that she loses her ability to control and make sense of her activities. Towards the end of her poem, it becomes apparent that Bishop has a feigned ability to make sense of her losses (Bishop 19). In fact, she does not seem to understand the order in which her losses or disasters occurred. Therefore, it can be deduced that losses and grief make people lose their assumed ability to master events in their life. In “The Things They Carried”, heavy loss and deep grief can lead an individual to commit suicide. For example, Norman Bowker’s grief accompanied by heightened confusion leads him to commit suicide. In “Notes”, Bowker wrote to O’Brien explaining the way he felt unsettled after the war and hanged himself in a YMCA (O’Brien 40). With that in mind, one can point out that grief and loss can lead people to premature death through suicide. In effect, this aspect gives light to the idea of counseling for the aggrieved people as O’Brien shared his collection of war stories which in turn feels like he has people to help offload his physical and emotional burdens.

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  1. Bishop, Elizabeth. “One Art.” Poets.org. 1 Nov. 2017.
  2. O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. Internet resource.
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