Study Guide

The Things They Carried In the Field

By Tim O'Brien

In the Field

  • The morning after the incident in the sewage field, the soldiers look for Kiowa's body.
  • Jimmy Cross helps in the search and watches his men. He sees a young soldier (this is presumably O'Brien, but O'Brien has chosen to tell this story in the third person) standing off by himself, shaking, in his own world.
  • Cross thinks about Kiowa's death, and how Kiowa, a brave and decent kid, absolutely didn't deserve to die in a field of sewage.
  • He thinks about what he's going to write to Kiowa's father, and how he shouldn't mention the sewage field.
  • Azar, of course, is cracking jokes about how Kiowa drowned in poop. Bowker tells him to shut up, but Azar, being Azar, just keeps making horrible puns. They still haven't found the body.
  • Halfway across the field, Mitchell Sanders finds Kiowa's rucksack. When Bowker wants to tell Cross that they found it, Sanders says no. He blames Cross for deciding to camp in a latrine. Bowker points out that none of them knew the field was the village toilet until it was too late.
  • Cross has finished writing the letter to Kiowa's father (in his head, anyway). He wishes he were playing golf. He wishes that he weren't the one in charge. He'd signed up to be an officer without really thinking about what it meant.
  • He blames himself. He should have paid attention to the old Vietnamese women who warned them away from the field in the first place. But he'd had orders to camp in the field, so he'd camped in the field. It was a mistake, and Kiowa had died.
  • He'll tell Kiowa's father that the blame lies with him. They never should have camped there.
  • The young soldier is still shaking, and he seems to be searching for something in the field. Jimmy Cross goes over to the boy.
  • The boy blames himself, too. He and Kiowa had been very close, and that night, he'd switched on his flashlight to show Kiowa a picture of his girlfriend, and then the field had exploded with mortars.
  • He heard Kiowa scream, and he crawled toward Kiowa. His head was under the surface of the mud, and the boy grabbed Kiowa's boot, but the field was pulling him under, and so he let go.
  • Now he's digging frantically in the mud. Jimmy Cross asks him what he's looking for, and the boy says he's looking for his girlfriend's picture. Jimmy Cross leaves him alone.
  • Norman Bowker finds Kiowa; his heel is sticking out. Mitchell Sanders, Bowker, and Azar try to pull Kiowa out of the mud, but he's stuck. They call Henry Dobbins and Rat Kiley over, but the body still won't come out.
  • The men start to dig. The rest of the platoon comes over, except for Jimmy Cross and the young soldier. They finally get Kiowa out. It's horrible.
  • They clean the body off and call in to the radio to get someone to come take the body away. The men relax.
  • Azar apologies to Norman Bowker for the jokes. (Any time Azar acts like a decent human being, we're a little suspicious, but he seems to mean it this time.) He tells Bowker that he feels that, by telling the jokes, he's responsible for Kiowa's death. Bowker says that it's nobody's fault, and everybody's.
  • The young soldier wants to confess his part in Kiowa's death to Jimmy Cross—how he turned on his flashlight and drew the mortar fire—but Jimmy Cross isn't listening. He's thinking about blame.
  • He's thinking that while you could blame the war and every cause of the war and God and everything else there is, in the field, blame needs to be more immediate.
  • He thinks that maybe when the war is over he'll write a letter to Kiowa's father, or maybe he'll just go play golf.