The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien is a story about the Vietnam War. The narrator depicts a group of soldiers in the midst of combat. He also describes everything they carry and the weight of the items. The weight is extremely significant; when weight is mentioned it is not only physical weight that the soldiers must carry, but also emotional weight. The Things They Carried is about sacrifice the hardships the soldiers go through. The leader of the troops is First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross; although a good leader, a flaw holds him back from being a great leader: he is infatuated with Martha, a college girl back home.

Depending on a man's size and metabolism rate, the soldiers carried a reasonable amount of artillery along with other provisions. Every man carried the required steel helmet, flak jacket, and necessities. They also carried their personal belongings and most importantly, their emotional weight. Henry Dobbins, who carries over thirty pounds of artillery, also carries extra food rations of canned peaches, pound cake, and chocolate bars. Also in the platoon is Ted Lavender, who carries thirty four pounds of ammunition versus the typical load of twenty five.

He carries ten extra pounds of physical weight, but he also carries the emotional weight of fear, which far surpasses any amount of physical weight. While physical weight can be lifted, emotional weight is much harder to shed. In Lieutenant Cross' case, he carries the emotional weight of his love for Martha. Jimmy cares for all his troops, but when he is alone in the trenches, or deep in the midst of battle, he constantly thinks of Martha.

He carries two pictures of her and the letters she writes. She writes him letters that leaves him with questions in his head, only to lead him more into a daze. While marching, Jimmy carries a pebble in his mouth as a good-luck charm. The pebble was given to him by Martha who sent it symbolizing her truest feelings for him. One day while his men are searching through a tunnel, he daydreams of Martha, their friendship, and her letters. He thinks of the time that he tried to kiss and touch her.

Jimmy knows she will never love him. While thinking of Martha, Ted Lavender, a platoon member, is shot and killed while taking a piss. Lieutenant Cross feels guilty because his attention was not focused on his men. His responsibility as a leader and his awareness as a soldier were on hold because of Martha. At the end, Jimmy burns Martha's letters and pushes her from his mind so he can become a better leader for his men.