Life has many inevitable features, one of them being change. There are many different kinds of change a person will go through in their life, and those changes affect everyone differently. In Tim O’Brien’s “work of fiction,” The Things They Carried, all of the soldiers experience environmental change when making their transition into the war. All of the soldiers adapt to the changes differently, however some try to resist change by acting as if they are still back home in the U.S. Those experiencing change learn that they need to be flexible and accepting if a good outcome is desired.
Prior to being drafted into Vietnam, Lieutenant Cross fell in love with a college girl named Martha. When he arrived at war, he had a hard time letting go of her. He wrote to her constantly, and carried her picture in his pocket everywhere he went. He often times got carried away in the thought of her, and their future together. Because of his carelessness, one of his men was killed on his watch. Cross couldn’t forgive himself for getting distracted by a life that is no longer his reality. “In part he was grieving for Ted Lavender, but mostly it was for Matha, and himself, because she belonged to another world, which was not real.” Lieutenant Cross embraces his environmental change into the war by not only remembering the love of his life, but by keeping in close touch with her. Because he was still so focused on staying connected with his old life by being in touch with Martha, he lost touch with his current life. He resisted the change by still holding on to what he once had, which ultimately lead to his failure as a lieutenant. When Cross’s environment first changed, he had an immediate instinct to resist the transition. When it was proved that he was too distracted by keeping in close touch with the life he left behind, he was embarrassed and ashamed. This experience taught him to let go of the past, and embrace his newly changed life.
Like Lieutenant Cross, soldier Mark Fossie had a hard time adjusting into the war because he couldn’t stand being away from his lover. One night, Fossie and the other soldiers were talking about how much they missed their girlfriends, and women in general. This leads Fossie to miss his old life to such an extreme that he sends for his girlfriend, Mary Anne. When she first arrived in Vietnam, everything was going great. However, eventually Mary Anne started adjusting to the environmental change, which ultimately changed her personality. Fossie detected the change almost immediately, and regretted bringing her out to war. “He couldn’t pin it down. Her body seemed foreign somehow- too stiff in places, too firm where the softness used to be.” Right when Fossie was getting used to his life changing in war, he started to miss his old life. Instead of just reminiscing, he decided to try and live out the life he missed, resisting the change. This backfired on him, since, of course, Mary Anne changed just like everything else. Their relationship couldn’t be healed, since it belonged back home, not on the battlefield. Fossie learned the lesson that when life changes occur, one has to accept them instead of trying to ignore them.
In an interview with Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried, he explains what a soldier does to mentally handle the war. He says, “the one way to psychologically endure it all is to escape in your head, in your imagination.” Tim O’Brien believes that not only forgetting one’s reality can help them survive the war, but remembering their old lives is necessary to enduring the pain. The key word that O’Brien uses is “imagination.” This explains what soldiers like Lieutenant Cross and Mark Fossie did wrong: they went past simply remembering their family and loved ones to actually involving them into their present life in the war. When change as extreme as going into the war takes place, a soldier’s home life and life in the battlefield need to be kept separate. This does not mean a soldier shouldn’t think about their loved ones and home, but it should never get in the way of their new lives. Accepting environmental changes into battle means to take on one’s career as a soldier strongly, whereas resisting is to ignore the changes.
Environmental change is one of the countless forms of change that people are bound to experience in their life. Many have a first instinct to resist change, which causes a negative outcome. When change arises, one needs to be flexible and accepting. Those experiencing change learn that they need to be flexible and accepting if a good outcome is desired.
Works Cited for Analytical Essay:
"In the Name of Love: An Interview With Tim O'Brien." Personal interview. 10 2009.
Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. New York: Broadway, 1998. Print.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”-Maya Angelou
The first day of eighth grade was the day I saw my life flash before my eyes. “This is the end,” I thought, as my peers and I received our assigned homerooms. We were each handed a slip of paper with our name and room assignment printed in bold. “Kara Rosenberg: Room 309,” it said. I was standing with my two best friends when I read my fate, which, at first, I really didn’t have a problem with. I didn’t have anything against room 309, until I found out I could have been in room 310.
“309,” I read aloud to my friends, “okay let’s go!”
“Oh, well our papers say 310…”
And that is the moment my life flashed before my eyes. That was the moment I knew it was over, my middle school career was ruined. Before this, my friends and I were inseparable, stuck to each other like glue. Who would have the guts to try and tear that glue apart? My grin sank into a frown almost as far as my stomach sank to the floor. I watched my friends walk away, into their destined homerooms which I suppose was never a part of the plan laid out for me by the heavens.
I walked into room 309 and scanned my eyes around the room, trying to detect friend-worthy faces. I didn’t see anyone who could possibly live up to the high standards I set, so I took a seat in the corner of the room. The rest of the class shuffled in, loud and obnoxious. I rolled my eyes and put my head down, just waiting for the lesson so that the imbeciles filling my ears with unneeded conversation would stop making so much noise. Finally, Ms. VanDyke, the homeroom teacher of 309, told everyone to quiet down and take a seat.
I thought it was strange, I had been in the same middle school for three years, but yet there were some people in my class who I had never talked to before. There are only two homeroom classes for every grade in middle school, and I had always been placed in one with all of my friends.
“Okay everyone,” said Ms. VanDyke, “I know you’re all probably wondering why you’re not with your usual crowd this year. To prepare you for high school, we decided to change up the way the classes are divided. Homerooms were created randomly, but for math and reading, you all will be split up into the class that suits the level you fall under. These classes will be with the people you normally have been with in middle school, until now. But, for every other class, these are the people you will be spending your time with.”
I didn’t know whether to be happy, sad, or confused, so I decided to be all three at once. I never knew we had always been split up on an academic basis, but it made sense as to why I was always with the same people I was used to. “At least I’ll see my friends soon,” I thought.
The bell rang and it was time for math class. I saved a seat for my friend next to me, and she found me immediately. When class began I saw all of the familiar faces, and I felt a wave of relief wash over my body. That class made me realize my friends were the ones I belonged with. I needed them to enjoy school, and I didn’t understand how I was supposed to go on being in a homeroom with people I didn’t even know! So, my friend and I made a plan. We thought it couldn’t be that hard for me to switch homerooms, it was the first day of school, who cared if I moved now?
We approached Ms. VanDyke at her desk. At first, we simply asked if it was possible… but then it turned into begging her that it had to happen.
“I’m sorry girls,” she said, “but room 310 is full. You’ll just have to live in 309.”
That’s when I made Ms. VanDyke my arch enemy. No, that’s when I made the entire room of 309 my enemy. For the next two weeks I continued to sit in my seat in the back of the room with a frown on my face and a stiff disposition, only loosening up when it was time for math and reading.
One day, I saw my friends walking with someone I had never seen before. When I asked who she was later in the day, they said she was someone new they had met in their homeroom, and that she was really nice. I looked around and noticed that not only my friends, but everyone was making new friends and adjusting to the change much better than I was. I was the only one in my class who sat alone. At first, I took offense to this fact, thinking that everyone thought they were better than me.
“Well maybe you should just make new friends,” one of my friends said, “I mean, then it wouldn’t be as bad.”
“Friends? You guys are my friends! I don’t like any of the people in my class!”
“Yeah, but you don’t even know them. We’re always going to be friends, but we obviously can’t be together all the time, so you should just try to make it more enjoyable for yourself. There’s nothing else you can do about it.”
I knew my friends were right, but I didn’t want to admit it. The next day, I decided to sit at a table with people I had seen before, but never really talked to.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” I asked
“No, go ahead,” a girl said with a smile.
That girl became my new best friend. Eighth grade became my favorite, most memorable year of middle school, and I made so many new friendships that will last forever. I left middle school learning a key life lesson: change needs to be accepted, not rejected. Being difficult when change occurs works against you, and just makes things harder on everyone.