The Things They Carried


Tim O’Brien

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The Things They Carried Characters

Elroy Berdahl

The man that Tim O'Brien considers to be his "life hero." Berdahl takes O'Brien in after O'Brien attempts to dodge the draft and head for Canada. O'Brien stays with Berdahl for a week at The… read analysis of Elroy Berdahl

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross

The Lieutenant of the Alpha Company. He never wanted to go to war, nor did he want to have to lead men. Instead he's preoccupied with how much he's in love with a girl… read analysis of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross


The love interest of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. They went on a single date in college. She sent him letters in the war and a pebble for good luck. After Vietnam, they see each other… read analysis of Martha

Norman Bowker

Awarded seven medals in the war. He returns from Vietnam tortured with guilt about the death of Kiowa and feels responsible. He hides this guilt under the regret that he didn't win the Silver Star… read analysis of Norman Bowker

Dave Jensen

A soldier who becomes so plagued with guilt and fear of retribution after he breaks Lee Strunk's nose during an argument, that Jensen breaks his own nose. Strunk and Jensen become friends and make… read analysis of Dave Jensen
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Lee Strunk

Accuses Dave Jensen of being crazy for breaking his own nose to make them "square" after Jensen shattered Strunk's nose. Becomes close with Jensen soon after and signs a pact that promises one will kill… read analysis of Lee Strunk
Minor Characters
Tim O'Brien
The author and frequent protagonist of The Things They Carried. The collection serves as an account of his and his squad mates experiences as a soldier before, during, and after the Vietnam War.
Tim O'Brien's best friend in the war. Kiowa is Native American, and known for carrying around a copy of the New Testament with him in his rucksack. He dies under heavy mortar fire and is buried under what the platoon calls a "shit field."
Mitchell Sanders
Known for telling stories throughout the war. He believes there's a correct way to tell war stories, but often insists there is no meaning to them whatsoever.
Bob "Rat" Kiley
The medic of Alpha Company. He is well respected for his ability to treat wounded men incredibly well under pressure. He eventually loses his composure in the war, and intentionally shoots off his own toe so that he must be forced out of combat.
Henry Dobbins
A simple man. He admits to not being that smart, and relies on a pair of stockings that belonged to his girlfriend to keep him safe in combat. He ritualistically wraps them around his neck before dangerous missions, and manages to leave the war without a scratch.
Ted Lavender
The first to die in Alpha Company. He took lots of tranquilizers to quell his constant terror over being at war, and carried extra ammunition. He was shot in the head while returning from a pee break.
An often ruthless and unlikeable member of the Alpha Company who enjoys wreaking havoc. He blows up Ted Lavender's puppy. Azar helps pull Kiowa's body out of the muck.
Tim O'Brien's daughter. She constantly questions why her father insists on writing so many war stories. She joins him on a trip to Vietnam where they revisit the fields where Kiowa died.
Curt Lemon
Known for hyper-masculine behavior and dangerous antics. He enjoys combat but is terrified of dentists. When the Army dentist touches him, he faints. Later he demands the dentist pull out a healthy tooth. Lemon dies after stepping on a rigged mortar round.
Mark Fossie
A medic who was once stationed with Rat Kiley. He sneaks his girlfriend, Mary Anne Bell, into his post in Vietnam.
Mary Anne Bell
The former girlfriend of Mark Fossie. She arrives in Vietnam wide-eyed and innocent, but transforms from a spectator to a fighter. Fossie is devastated by her abandonment when she chooses the war over him.
Eddie Diamond
Fossie's superior at the post. The first to jokingly suggest that the area is so peaceful a girl could be snuck in. Fossie takes the joke seriously and sneaks in his then-girlfriend Mary Anne Bell.
The Greenies (6 Green Berets)
The men that Mary Anne Bell disappear with to be a part of the combat.
Sally Kramer/Gustafson
Norman Bowker's former girlfriend, who is married when he returns from the war.
Max Arnold
Norman Bowker's childhood friend.
O'Brien's girlfriend in the picture that he was showing Kiowa right before Kiowa died.
Bobby Jorgenson
The replacement medic for Rat Kiley. He is so scared of combat that he screws up the treatment when O'Brien is shot for the second time, and O'Brien nearly dies for it.
Morty Phillips
The one who everyone says used up his luck after he disappeared for a day to go swimming in a river where the territory was hostile. He survives the swim, but because he drank some of the polluted river water he gets incredibly sick and dies.
O'Brien's sweetheart as a child. She dies of a brain tumor when she's nine years old.
Nick Veenhof
A boy who mocks Linda's cap in the classroom and rips it off—revealing the stitches in her head. From this, O'Brien learns that Linda has a brain tumor.
LZ Gator
An American soldier who got into a fight with two of his comrades, Lee Strunk and Dave Jensen, over a jackknife in the story "Enemies."