The old farmer is featured in the story "Field Trip," and symbolizes the mostly-buried hatchet between the Vietnamese people and the Americans. Tim O'Brien assures his daughter, Kathleen, that the man is not angry at him—that all of "that is finished." But the old farmer and O'Brien share a long stare at one another, where O'Brien half-expects the old farmer will come over and start talking about the war. When he goes back to work, directly trying to improve the land, this symbolizes a desire and a need to move on from the memory of the war and the devastation it had on the old farmer's country.
The Old Farmer Symbol Timeline in The Things They Carried
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Old Farmer appears in The Things They Carried. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...went under with Kiowa, and after twenty years he's getting closer to emerging. One of the old farmers is watching O'Brien, and O'Brien stares back. O'Brien "felt something go shut in [his] heart... (full context)
...Kathleen looks back over the field when they get to the car. She asks if the old farmer is mad at O'Brien. O'Brien says he hopes not. Kathleen says the old farmer looks... (full context)