It has been said that "War never changes. Since the dawn of human kind, when our ancestors first discovered the killing power of rock and bone, blood has been spilled in the name of everything from God, to justice, to simple psychotic rage." This iconic quote comes from a popular post-apocalyptic video game series named Fallout. War has not changed since the beginning of time. There will always be a loss for either side, and only one side will emerge victorious. However, this does not always apply to those who fight on either side. These "puppets" are unwillingly made to hurt and kill, leaving themselves miles away from sanity. In Tim O' Brien's The Things They Carried, there are psychological and physical hardships from war that can change even the toughest and most arrogant of minds. War itself never changes, but it changes new, innocent, and fearful soldiers such as Jimmy Cross, Mary Anne, and Bobby Jorgenson into hard spirited mavericks of war through the process of denial, practice, and acceptance.
Having been selected to lead the Alpha Company, Jimmy Cross, a mentally weak minded man whose heart longs for a girl named Martha back at home, carries the responsibility of each one of his men's lives. Jimmy Cross was never fit to carry such a burden. He signed up for the Reserves by following his friends, hoping to avoid the draft, but ended up obligatorily as Lieutenant in the ongoing war. He started out in denial with his obsession over pictures and letters of Martha. This distraction served to be the death of Lavender, one of his platoon members. After suffering the immense guilt, Cross finally realizes that the laxity he puts on himself is the cause of Lavenders death. Through the practice of burning all of his possessions of Martha, he takes a step closer to accepting his responsibility as Lieutenant and sets his own goal of focusing on the task at hand by telling the group that "they would get their shit together...[and] he would not tolerate laxity" (24). His own personal goal is what makes him a tough maverick but he was not the only one who was hardened by war.
Mary Anne Bell, the girlfriend of Mark Fossie, is brought into the war zone initially to be with her boyfriend. The more she learned about the sadism and laxity of war, the more forthrightly curious she became about learning more. As she begins to get familiar with the land and customs, "she seemed comfortable and entirely at home" (107) which causes her boyfriend to think about sending her home. Over time she losses her innocence, but in denial, she still sleeps with Mark and thinks of having a future with him after the war. However, some time later, she spends less and less time with him and eventually leaves altogether with the Green Berets (Special Forces). In the next three weeks, she would spend nights in the forest with them, which exposed her to the practices of the men around her. Later, Mark discovers her in the Special Forces hut, preforming voodoo rituals with a wrath of tongues around her neck. Unrecognizable from the outside and the inside, Mary Anne has truly changed by war into a . Through practice and volition, she becomes the incarnate of Lady Medusa herself. However, others change for the better of their platoon.
Bobby Jorgenson started out his first day in the midst of a firefight and failed to help O' Brien's injury because he lacked the experience. He was in denial over the fact that he failed to save O' Brien in time. This is seen when he later tells O' Brien that he "kept telling [him] self to move, move, but [he] couldn't do it"(226). However, in the short six weeks that O' Brien was hospitalized, Bobby, through practice, learned to be a reliable and trustworthy medic. This changed shocked O' Brien because he was able to see the prominent change that Bobby had gone through. Bobby Jorgenson, a once seemingly foolish and frightened soldier is now the courageous medic with his own goal of never letting a mistake slip past him again.
War will not change. Its basic principles are what drive war to have citizens fight for what they represent. These citizens go in as mostly timid and unsure of their purpose, but as they learn from denial, practice, and acceptance of their situation, they evolve into freethinkers affected by war with a prominent and valor personality. Although they may be seen as puppets, doing without any common sense and manipulated by war and greed, they seem like they have total control over themselves without any strings attached. Because each one of them has their own personal convictions shaped by war, they will not waver when it comes to psychological and physical damage.