Things That We Regret Essay Example
Passage: “Looking out toward the river, he knew for a fact that he had made a mistake setting up here. The order had come from higher truth, but still he should’ve exercised some field discretion. He should’ve moved to higher ground for the night, should’ve radioed in false coordinates. There was nothing he could do now, but still it was a mistake and a hideous waste. He felt sick about it. Standing in the deep waters of the field, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross began composing a letter in his head to the kid’s father, not mentioning the shit field, just saying what a fine soldier Kiowa had been, what a fine human being, and how he was the kind of son that any father could be proud of forever” (157).
During the chapter ”In the Field,” Kiowa sinks into the mud and dies, which prompts Lieutenant Jimmy Cross to feel severe guilt. As a lieutenant, Cross is responsible for keeping his soldiers safe and in check, so when he is unable to do so, it weighs heavily on him. O’ Brien’s choice of using the word “waste” feels particularly significant considering Kiowa died in a pile of waste, and now Jimmy Cross feels as though it was all a waste; Kiowa’s life was stolen prematurely and Cross was not able to prevent it. The repetition of the phrase “should’ve” indicates to readers that Cross believes that had he made different choices, Kiowa might still be alive (157). There is no way Cross could have shaped the event differently, but Cross endlessly tortures himself with thoughts about what he could have done. Ultimately, a consistent theme that drives many of the stories in the novel is death and the impact on the soldier’s emotional state. For instance, twenty years after the war O’ Brien continues to write war stories to cope with the fact that he murdered a man. Like Jimmy, O’Brien was heavily influenced by death’s in the war, which has caused them both distress and mental angst.
Even though my situation is dramatically different than these men, I can relate to the way they tend to overthink certain circumstances. Recently, in my life, for example, school has caused me an overwhelming amount of stress. In ninth grade, if I didn’t receive an A in a class, I would lose my mind. If I didn’t get a good grade on a test, I consistently asked myself, “What could I have done better?” or, “Did I do poorly because I was out with my friends the night before?” Every little thing kept building up in my mind to the degree that school eventually consumed me; it became the driving factor of every moment in my daily life. Jimmy Cross was immensely traumatized by Kiowa’s death, which caused him to start “composing” letters in his mind to Kiowa’s father in an effort to make sense of the tragedy (157). Like Jimmy Cross, when I didn't receive the grade I hoped for, I would start “composing” emails to my teacher in my mind as well (157). It might sound dramatic, but the thing is, it’s true. Even when I was writing this, I was overthinking the assignment. It may take years for me to finally understand, but for now, these are the things I carry with me.