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This lesson is a character description of Ted Lavender in Tim O’Brien’s ”The Things They Carried.” Ted Lavender is the first member of Alpha Company to die in the book. Before he dies, Lavender pops tranquilizers to calm his fear of dying.

Ted Lavender

In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a book of linked short stories, Ted Lavender is significant primarily for his death. He is the first character to die, so his death inherently marks a change in the narrative: death has touched Alpha company, and it won’t be the last time.Alive, Lavender is simply a young, scared soldier. He carries marijuana, tranquilizers, and extra ammo to ease his nerves. We don’t get to know him very well. We do see him adopt an orphaned puppy, but the puppy meets an early death, like Lavender himself.

Lavender’s Death

In mid-April, Alpha Company is searching out and destroying Vietcong tunnel complexes. While one of the other men was down in a tunnel and everyone was waiting to see if he would come back up, Ted Lavender popped some tranquilizers and went off to pee. Just as Lee Strunk re-emerges safely and everyone is laughing and joking with him about returning from the dead, Lavender is shot in the head as he walks back from peeing.

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Kiowa, who saw it happen, is struck by how quickly Lavender went down. Kiowa said ‘It was like watching a rock fall, or a big sandbag or something – just boom, then down.’ O’Brien comments on the exceptionally heavy load Lavender was carrying: all of the regular gear, plus extra ammunition, tranquilizers, and his fear, which was undoubtedly a heavy burden.Through Lavender’s death, O’Brien is able to show how quickly death happens in war. The circumstances of Lavender’s death are not all that remarkable, he was just walking back from peeing, but it happened just the same. It is also a preventable death, and through that fact shows how expendable life is within the broader context of the war. O’Brien also shows how the survivors try to get through their encounter with death in a variety of ways, whether it’s jokes or mourning.

Jimmy Cross’ Guilt

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the commanding officer, blames himself for Lavender’s death. Years later, when O’Brien visits him after the war, he says that he still does and will never forgive himself.While everything is going on the day Lavender dies, all Cross can think about is Martha, the girl he is in love with, who probably doesn’t love him. He can’t focus on the war or on his men, and Lavender’s death makes him realize this. ‘He pictured Martha’s smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men, and now Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and could not stop thinking about her.’ After Lavender dies, Cross burns Martha’s pictures.

He resolves to try to keep her from distracting him from the men in his command.

Lesson Summary

Ted Lavender is a young, scared soldier in the Alpha company in Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried. He is the most afraid to die, and dies first. Before he is shot, he carries and takes tranquilizers to dull his fear. He dies on his way back from peeing while the rest of the platoon is focused on a tunnel that they need to destroy. Lieutenant Cross blames himself for the rest of his life for Lavender’s death because he was too distracted by daydreams of Martha to properly pay attention to the surroundings.

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