Thoughts about death are very personal issues that every person has. Obviously, some people have them more than others. The usual or popular attitude towards death in most people is fear, which in my opinion is totally understandable. Thanatophobia is the anxiety a person feels when thinking about death, of their own or that of others. It is described as the feeling of dread and apprehension when thinking about death. As we all know, the probabilities of a soldier dying in battle are extremely high. For this reason fear of death is a feeling that a lot of soldiers experience while in battle, and not only them but also their families and peers back at home. Any two war stories are very likely to share this quality and that is what both of our stories: “War” and “The Things They Carried” share.
War means death to some, like Lavender in O’Brien’s story or the son of the bulky guy who gives the inspiring speech and then burst into tears in the train in Pirandello’s story. The death of a part of your team brings discouragement to the remaining components; it’s one of their main fears come true right in their faces. The death of a colleague also increases the terror a person feels towards perishing. After Lavender’s death, the band starts using the things they carry to distract themselves from thinking about death. They begin smoking Lavender’s dope.
That is actually the point of “humping” all the things they carry some of the things are for battle like their guns and boots and some are for distraction. For example Lieutenant Cross carries love letters and a .45 caliber pistol. The soldiers see both of these articles as necessities, like Lavender sees dope as a necessity. That’s how badly they suffer this Thanatophobia, they need, and I strongly emphasize the word need, to be distracted from it. Both guns and distractions are as important to these soldiers, that’s how we know that fear of death plays an important role in this story.
“War” deals with a totally different aspect of Thanatophobia. It no longer is fear of ones own, but of one’s sons. The characters in this story all fear for the death of their child. One seems not to fear this at times but when he realizes what his son got into, he “burst into tears”. A lot of the characters cried, others tried to fake mental-strength but in the end they were all scared of the thought that their sons might pass away. The whole plot, which in this case is in the form of a discussion, is about how much different parents suffer from leaving their sons at the mercy of the enemy and this suffering emerges from being afraid of their (soldier’s, son’s) deaths.
I do not consider myself thanatophobic. I’m not really sure if I am afraid of death. What really haunts me is what will happen to me? Where will I go after I die? I am sure that if these questions were hammering into my head for hours, days, weeks and even months I would surely need countless distractions. During war these and many more questions probably drill themselves into the minds of the fatigued soldiers and of their families for long periods of time. I can only start to explain why it is that the soldiers in one of our stories consider distractions a necessity in war just like a weapon is necessary in a war and why it is that the parents of the soldiers in the other story are suffering so much. War stories differ in many aspects, especially our two stories, one isn’t even in a battlefield or with soldiers, but one thing “War” and “The Things They Carried” do have in common is the fear of death. Then again, isn’t death a fear that haunts us all?