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The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers
In the title story of the book, why does Lt. Cross burn Martha’s letters?

For much of the story, Lt. Jimmy Cross wonders if Martha, a girl back home, is in love with him. O’Brien writes that Cross spends much of his time “just pretending” that Martha loves him, thinking about her constantly while on the move with his men across the war zone of Vietnam. After Ted Lavender is killed, Cross feels deeply guilty that he was not able to protect him, and burns Martha’s letters and photo as way of trying to apologize and make things right.