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Psychoanalytical theory can trace its roots back to Sigmund Freud. The oxford definition states that it is the theory of personality organization and the dynamics of personality development that guides psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology.

The Oxford dictionary for pyschoanalysis is: A therapeutic method, originated by Sigmund Freud, for treating mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the patient’s mind and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind, using techniques such as dream interpretation and free association.

Now that I personally have a better understanding of the basis of pyschoanalytical thinking I began to apply it to the first chapter of The Things They Carried by Tim O’brien. The character for me, that made it easy to apply this type of theory was First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and his obsession with Martha.

Throughout most of the first chapter, his obsession with her is very daunting and began to even impose on his job. While on a mission one of his men is checking out one of the complex tunnel systems in Vietnam and while thinking of Martha one of his men is killed. (O’brien, T. 1990) tell us, “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.”

Freud theorizes that there are four essential conditions that must be met for love, and one of them being coined the term, overvaluing (of the women). This is a compulsion that they are the “only ones it is possible to love.” Passionate attachments of this type of relationship occur repeatedly with one woman replaced by another. The man is consumed by the woman, and she will “absorb the whole of their mental energies, to the exclusion of all other interests.”

First Lieutenant Cross definitely would fell under this condition and it did cost him the life of a soldier. Is the death of Ted Lavender really because of Martha? No, but Jimmy came to that conclusion, and took some drastic actions because of it.

“On the morning after Ted Lavender died, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha’s letters. Then he burned the two photographs. There was a steady rain falling, which made it difficult, but he used heat tabs and Sterno to build a small fire, screening it with his body, holding the photographs over the tight blue flame with the tips of his fingers.” (O’brien, T. 1990).

At the end of the first chapter, Jimmy realized that his obsession with Martha was getting in the way of his line of duties and did his best to erase her from his life. He wanted to have his complete focus on running his group of men.

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