The Things They Carried

by: Tim O’Brien

Mitchell Sanders

Characters Mitchell Sanders

Mitchell Sanders is a likable soldier and a devoted friend. He has a sense of irony, picking lice off his body and sending them back to his draft board in Ohio, and a sense of loyalty, refusing to help O’Brien inflict revenge on the medic Bobby Jorgenson and standing by Rat Kiley in his decision to escape Vietnam by shooting himself in the toe. He also has a strong sense of justice—when Cross leads the troops into the sewage field where Kiowa eventually meets his death, Sanders refuses to forgive him because the evidence shows that he should have known better.

Sanders often applies this pragmatism to his storytelling. He believes that a good war story often lacks a moral and that sometimes a story without commentary or explanation speaks for itself because he understands that war stories are never simple or cut-and-dried. In his story about the platoon driven crazy by phantom voices in the jungle, for example, he offers no explanation of what the voices were. Instead, he focuses on the soldiers’ experience of the voices, which he considers more relevant and concrete. Sanders is in this way a mouthpiece for O’Brien, who presents the stories that constitute The Things They Carried not to teach a moral but to portray an experience.