The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried Style Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A girl danced with half-closed eyes though there was no music. She stood in the rubble; most of the hamlet had burned down. She was barefoot and around the age of fourteen, with brown skin and black hair. Azar asked why she was dancing as they searched through all of the damage. Rat Kiley caught a chicken to cook for dinner. The girl kept dancing in front of her house. Azar asked again why she was dancing. Henry Dobbins said it didn't matter. As the platoon kept searching, they found her whole family (an elderly woman, a baby, and a woman) dead in the house. The girl kept dancing as the men dragged the bodies out of the house. She covered her ears with her palms, which the men thought meant something. Azar said he didn't understand. The village was mostly burned down; almost everything was dead, even the pigs. As they moved out, and the girl was still dancing, Azar concluded it had to be a "weird ritual." Henry Dobbins disagreed and said she just liked to dance.
This young girl is dancing after her entire family has been killed. Azar is fixating on the "why" she is dancing and the meaning, while Dobbins points out that there is no meaning, she's just dancing. This parallels the war, and the constant lack of morals to a war story. There is no meaning to the war, there is no definitive answer to why soldiers die, why they are at war, or why certain men die while others live. The dancing girl is symbolic of this meaninglessness. The fact that it appears strange to Azar shows how some men, even those at war and in the midst of a world without rules or meaning, can still question the meaning of something like a girl dancing.
Themes
Mortality and Death Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Shame and Guilt Theme Icon
Later that evening, after they had marched away from the destroyed village, Azar started to move like the dancing girl mockingly. Henry Dobbins who was graceful for a big man, went over and picked up Azar and hung him over a well. He asked Azar if he wanted to be dumped in, and Azar said no. Henry Dobbins let him go, but demanded that Azar "dance right."
Henry Dobbins feels obligated to respect the dance of the young girl, even if it didn't have a meaning. He can still see that there's a right and wrong way to dance—dance the way you feel, not with some lying mockery—and he insists Azar respect that.
Themes
Mortality and Death Theme Icon
Social Obligation Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Shame and Guilt Theme Icon