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Ted Lavender's Unweighted Fear in ‘The Things They Carried’: Character Analysis

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The award-winning author, Tim O’Brien, wrote the novel ‘The Things They Carried’, which was a collection of short stories based on O’Brien’s experiences in the Vietnam War. He elaborates on the brutality soldiers go through during battle and the morals of a true war story. Introduced in the chapter ‘The Things They Carried’, Ted Lavender is a young soldier, who is always apprehensive and copes with his fears with various items, such as dope and tranquilizers, that he carries throughout the war. The author paints Ted Lavender as a scared, timid soldier trying to escape the chaos of the Vietnam War.

No soldier ever wants to go to war nor are they brave enough to face it. Every young boy drafted “carried the common secret of cowardice… the instinct to run or freeze or to hide” (20). Lavender is no exception. Selected to fight at an adolescent age, Ted Lavender is frightened by the idea of pain and death. Consequently, Lavender becomes fidgety after entering the war, carrying possessions that assist in easing his nerves. The author O’Brien narrates him as “[Ted Lavender] who was scared” (6) on multiple occasions. He packs extra ammunition compared to his platoon for assurance and protection. The bloodshed causes Ted to be wearier and prepared against death yet ironically, he is the first to die. He also carries dope, deliberately getting high, “which for him was a necessity” (3) to calm himself for a time. Therefore, allowing him to numb the gunshots, the blood, and the smell of death. In the ‘Spin’ chapter, Ted temporarily takes care of a puppy who gives him hope and a sense of innocence along with a gateway out of the war by being able to take care of someone other than himself. It offers him a distraction similarly to his frequent doses of dope. Although his fear is intangible and has no physical weight, it is the heaviest thing Ted carries.

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In ‘The Things They Carried’, Ted Lavender’s surname is symbolic of his character. Citing from the language of flowers, lavender signifies purity, serenity, and calmness. Its’ meaning reflects on Ted’s state of mind during drug abuse. In the time he is intoxicated, he possesses a mellow personality, has “dreamy blue eyes” (219), and “soft, dreamy expression on his face” (218). Thus, Ted would be the calmest out of all the soldiers, even in the worst situations, because of the drugs he continuously takes. The condition Ted goes into serves as a makeshift barrier, separating his terrified self from the discord of warfare. This association is also an example of irony because the readers know Ted uses tranquilizers to break free from the war when his platoon is out fighting in a dangerous, yet meaningless battle.

The author Tim O’Brien utilizes Ted Lavender’s character to show inner escapism from the Vietnam War and attaining that through narcotics. Ted bears with “unweighted fear” (6), the metaphorical burden of fear soldiers always has with them and becomes literal as well as figurative “dead weight” (6). Before getting shot, he uses tools such as dope or tranquilizers to null his terror. Despite his appearance in the narrative being brief, the audience immediately understands that Ted is simply young and naturally afraid of suffering.

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Ted Lavender’s Unweighted Fear in ‘The Things They Carried’: Character Analysis. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Ted Lavender’s Unweighted Fear in ‘The Things They Carried’: Character Analysis.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Ted Lavender’s Unweighted Fear in ‘The Things They Carried’: Character Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
Ted Lavender’s Unweighted Fear in ‘The Things They Carried’: Character Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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