“, staring into the dark, they were carried away by jumbo jets. They felt the rush of takeoff. Gone! They yelled. (286). “Freedom bird” an appropriate term for the jumbo jets that take the soldiers from their tour because it gives them the freedom from what has been holding them back.
Throughout the story, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross has his mind everywhere but on his infantry he is supposed to be leading on the tour. The story shows how even the smallest memory, letter, or picture can draw anyone from reality. It shows several men’s struggle to overcome their predisposed conscience and deal with reality. It has become one of the most common occurrences in any war. Grandfathers, uncles, and even brothers have told how they would recall as they were fighting, they themselves carried the unnecessary on a tour. The seemingly innocent picture, the numerous letters sent, and even thoughts of what it was like to be home, all of a loved one is now shown to have an impact.
As seen with Jimmy Cross, some men even went to a profound obsession. As mentioned early in the work, Jimmy Cross carries letters and two pictures from a friend named Martha. The story tells how “he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters and photos, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending, he would imagine romantic camping trips” (275).
One picture is a black and white picture of Martha standing against a brick wall. It is told how Martha has an apparent neutral look to her, and Cross can’t help but notice the shadow of the person taking the picture. Cross knows she has boyfriends, knows she is closer to men other than himself. The other picture that Cross has is one of Martha clipped from a yearbook. It is a shot of Martha playing volleyball for her school. In the picture, Martha is “bent horizontal to the floor, reaching, the palms of her hands in sharp focusthe expression on her face taut and competitive” (276). The usual glance at a picture isn’t enough for this man.
It becomes an obsession for him to do this every night, sometimes he “licks the envelopes knowing that her tongue touched the paper” (275).O’Brien gives the impression that Cross has the deepest thoughts for Martha throughout the story.He mentions on numerous occasions that Cross is thinking about her, and imagining being with her. Cross remembers back to when he touched her knee in a theater, but pulling it away when he felt uncomfortable when Martha gives m a certain look. When Cross receives the stone that Martha picked up on the Jersey shore, he daydreams that he “wondered howthe Jersey shore line was when Martha saw the pebble and bent down to pick it upimagining her bare feet” (278). In the letter that accompanied the pebble, Martha mentions that she picked up the pebble from where the water and the land meet where it has a “separate but together quality” (278).
Cross is not the only man who carries strange objects to deal with the war and the absence of home. One guy in the infantry carries not only his normal gear and necessities is Ted Lavender. He carries “six or seven ounces of premium dopeand tranquilizers” (276).
The story depicts Lavender as the type of person who is always taking some form of drug in order to deal with the war. Lavender’s fate is met when he “pops off a tranquilizer and goes off to pee” then he “was shot in the head on the way back of the head on his way back from peeing” (280). Kiowa, another member of the infantry, carries not only hatchet with which he cuts off a thumb of an enemy. Harry Dobbins carried his girlfriend’s panties around his neck, and Dave Jansen carried ear plugs.Throughout the story, Cross’ thoughts switch back and forth between real life, daydreams, and thoughts of Martha. The story starts out telling of who Martha is, how he feels for her, and what he would do for her. Next, the tone moves to what soldiers carry on tour.
O’Brien tells how much certain items weigh and what they are used for.. It is as if Cross can’t help but to think of this woman when he gets bored of the war. Cross even believes that it is his fault for the death of one of his men.
Cross felt that it was because of his daydreaming that Ted Lavender died. After Lavender died, Cross began to think about his actions. He realized that throughout the war, he spent his time dreaming of a woman he hardly knew. How she herself had no special feelings for Cross and she was just writing to him because she felt a responsibility to. Although seemingly reaching out to him, she in fact had no deep feeling for him. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, in the end, realized the mistakes he’s made. He sees that he has unknowingly threatened the lives of the men he is responsible for, and has been lead on by Martha.
He realizes that he has held on the his memories of her, and her letters only to have memories of home with him while he is so from form it. He realizes that this notion of having Martha to think about is slowing him down, and he needs to get on with his job. Cross “crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha’s letters.
Then he burned the two photographs” (287). By burning his material memories of Martha, Cross “frees” himself of what has holding him down from working to his full potential. He has nothing to stop and look at or read, but he does have his thoughts of Martha. “Briefly in the rain, Lieutenant Cross saw Martha’s gray eyes gazing back at himIt was very sadThe things men carried insidehe almost nodded at her, but he didn’t” (287).
This is the turning point in the story.This is where Cross gets on with his tour. This is where Lieutenant Cross started to “remind himself that his job is to lead” and he will “dispense of all love: it was not now a factor” (288). O’Brien’s use of the term “freedom birds” is appropriate when referring to the jets that take troops away because it carries them away, far away from where they don’t want to be. Late in the story, Cross realizes what his affixation to Martha has cost him and his men. He want’s to rid himself of the burden, but can’t.
When Cross finally rids himself of the burden, he is ready to march on, he is ready to do his job. Cross “feels the rush of takeoff. Gone!” (286).————————————————————–