The Things They Carried

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“In the Field”

Summary “In the Field”


The morning after Kiowa’s death, the platoon wades in the mud of the sewage field with Jimmy Cross leading the way. Cross thinks of Kiowa and the crime that is his death. He concludes that although the order to camp came from a higher power, he made a mistake letting his men camp on the dangerous riverbank. He decides to write a letter to Kiowa’s father saying what a good soldier Kiowa was.

When the search for Kiowa’s body gets underway on the cold, wet morning, Azar begins cracking jokes about “eating shit” and “biting the dirt,” and Bowker rebukes him. Halfway across the field, Mitchell Sanders discovers Kiowa’s rucksack, and the men begin wading in the muck, desperately searching for the body.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Cross finishes composing the letter in his head and reflects that he never wanted the responsibility of leadership in the first place—he signed up for Reserve Officers Training Corps without giving thought to the consequences. He blames himself for making the wrong decision, concluding that he should have followed his first impulse and removed the men from the field. He feels that his oversight caused Kiowa’s death. In the distance he notices the shaking body of a young soldier and goes over to speak to him. The soldier too blames himself for being unable to save Kiowa and becomes determined to find the body because Kiowa was carrying the only existing picture of the soldier’s ex-girlfriend.

After the platoon has spent a half a day wading in the field, Azar ceases his joking. The men find Kiowa’s body wedged between a layer of mud, take hold of the two boots, and pull. Unable to move it, they call over Dobbins and Kiley, who also help pull. After ten minutes and more pulling, Kiowa’s body rises to the surface covered with blue-green mud. Harrowed and relieved, the men clean him up and then try to take their mind off him. Azar apologizes for the jokes.

Cross squats in the muck, revising the letter to Kiowa’s father in his head. He notices the unnamed soldier, still searching for the missing picture. The soldier tries to get Cross’s attention, saying he has to explain something. But Cross ignores him, choosing instead to float in the muck, thinking about blame, responsibility, and golf.


“Speaking of Courage” gives Bowker’s view of Kiowa’s death, and “Notes” gives O’Brien’s view. “In the Field” allows the other company members to comment. Like “Speaking of Courage,” “In the Field” is told in the third person, but instead of focusing on one character’s account of Kiowa’s death, it gives many different points of view. We can relive the situation not only from Norman Bowker’s point of view but also from that of Lieutenant Cross, Azar, and a young, unnamed soldier.