The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried Guilt and Blame Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story Title.Paragraph)
Like Jimmy Cross, the boy was explaining things to an absent judge. It wasn't to defend himself. The boy recognized his own guilt and wanted only to lay out the full causes. (In the Field.47)
O'Brien (we assume that the boy is Tim) so automatically accepts his own guilt in Kiowa's death that he doesn't even try to rationalize it. Instead, he methodically goes over every single reason that he's guilty.
"[…] I felt sort of guilty almost, like if I'd kept my mouth shut none of it would've ever happened. Like it was my fault." […] "Nobody's fault," [Bowker] said. "Everybody's." (In the Field.105).
Even Azar—Azar, people! He kills puppies!—is not immune from feelings of guilt. This is a rare moment of introspection for him. He feels somehow responsible for Kiowa's death simply because he was cracking jokes about the way he died. When he sees the body, the guilt really hits home. Bowker, meanwhile, foreshadows Jimmy Cross's musings (coming up next!) when he points out that the guilt is both everyone's and no one's.
"When a man died, there had to be blame. Jimmy Cross understood this. You could blame the war… A moment of carelessness or bad judgment or plain stupidity carried consequences that lasted forever." (In the Field.115)
Jimmy Cross (surprise, surprise) blames himself for Kiowa's death. He goes over all the many, many places that blame could be assigned—the war, the rain, God, munitions makers, voters, etc.—and concludes that while the blame is in some ways universal, it's also intensely personal. Jimmy chose to camp in the field despite the warnings of the old Vietnamese women. He is, in fact, to blame.