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Repetition is needed to remember the men as they were and not the men the war has turned them into. This literary device gives insight and more importance to the physical and mental weight they carried on their shoulders. We learn what kind of men they are. Mitchell Sanders is a man who disguises his fear with misplaced and slightly sadistic behavior when he cuts off the thumb of a dead VC and gives it to Bowker. Ted Lavender is a man whose fear eclipses basic survival instincts. Lt. Jimmy Cross is a man who was thrust into a position he was not ready for at such a young age, resulting in a few poor choices from a lack of self-discipline.

The short, fragmented descriptions are confusing and illuminating simultaneously. They are confusing because a part will begin almost like a flashback, describing the weather and terrain conditions, the daily struggles, and the items they carried that day until another part begins, describing a different aspect of Ted Lavender’s death or another hopeless fantasy of Martha’s love.

Four phrases are repeated to emphasize the cause-and-effect outline of the story and support its theme. Martha is the cause, Lavender’s death is the consequence, and those combined affect the things they carried before and after.

“They were signed Love, Martha…”

This repetition shows Lt. Cross’ intense infatuation with every detail of Martha’s life, down to how she signed her letters to him even though he knew her use of the word love was harmless. Her words carried no meaning. Yet, the image and memory of Martha weighed more to Lt. Cross than all the things the men carried combined.

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“The things they carried…”

This repetition is used to exhaustively list every item each man carried, down to the weight, depending on the necessity of the soldier and the wants of the man. They carried food rations, metal detectors for safety, weapons, steel-lined helmets, items for personal hygiene, ponchos for the rain or sleeping, and canteens of water. They carried their guilt, their shame, superstitious items, their fear of dying, and their poise to cover their cowardice. Their tokens from home- the pebble, rabbit’s foot, pantyhose, photographs, comic books- keep these soldiers relatable as ordinary people with the weight of the world on their shoulders. These are the things men take for granted. These are the things that keep them alive. These are the things that keep them grounded and sane. However, after Lavender’s death, the things they carried began to change. “He’d tell them, they would no longer abandon equipment along the route of march…Their days would seem longer and their loads heavier, but Lieutenant Jimmy Cross reminded himself that his obligation was not to be loved but to lead.” (25-26)

“Until he was shot…”

This repetition preludes Ted Lavender’s death each time before it’s spoken about. Those words mark the point in Lt. Cross’ journey from a lovestruck and relaxed 24-year-old to a man capable of living up to his rank as a lieutenant. The story constantly uses the moment Lavender dies as a point of reference or a timetable for their actions. His death also changes him dramatically because it induces self-awareness. Cross went from daydreams to discipline within 24 hours and repeating “until he was shot” helps him remember why his change of attitude and change in actions is his most vital necessity at that moment. For them to live, he would have to change.

“Boom-down. Like cement.”

This is repeated by Kiowa, the Native American soldier who carries the illustrated version of the New Testament and his grandfather’s hatchet. It signifies the quickness of Ted Lavender’s death and its weight physically because of all the things they carried (ammunition, food, supplies, weapons, etc…) and emotionally because of the new burden that’s added to Lt. Cross’ list of things he carries as his men’s lives are his responsibility.

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