The reader may disagree with Crosss conclusion that his fantasies about Martha leads to Lavenders death. The text merely says that at the time that Lavender was shot, Lieutenant Cross nodded and closed his eyes while the other men cracked jokes. The crucial issue here, however, is not the physical realities of the circumstances surrounding one soldiers death but its emotional implications. Cross sees the events in stark, black-and-white terms: Martha or his men. There is no room for compromise in the world he now inhabits. Only 24 years old and not a risk-taker, as demonstrated by his chaste relationship with Martha, Cross has the safety of his men in his hands, and he cannot juggle two priorities; as the text states, He was just a kid at war, in love. Crosss method of symbolic reasoning finds further emphasis in his digging of a foxhole that night and crawling inside, thus repeating the fantasy playing out in his head in the moments before Lavenders death. There he comes to the realization that Martha did not love him and never would, a fact obvious to the storys readers.
With his love for Martha forbidden to him or at the least, transformed into a hard, hating kind of love Jimmy Cross turns to what can substitute as its closest opposite. He decides to initiate a new start for Alpha Company. Determined to mold both himself and his men into ideal soldiers, he will demand more discipline of them. He will no longer let them abandon equipment along the route of march although he acknowledges that there would be grumbling . . . because their days would seem longer and their loads heavier. Crosss recognition that the men have lost their soldierly comportment comes at the same time as his recognition that it is his world, not Marthas world, that is real. Cross has allowed his men to carry too much of the world of peace with them, where feelings and emotions do not carry with them the power of death. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross reminded himself that his obligation was not to be loved but to lead. He would dispense with love; it was not now a factor.
When asked in an interview to choose his favorite story from The Things They Carried, OBrien said that on most days, or three days out of seven in a week he would choose The Things They Carried. OBrien likes the cadences of the story, the sounds and rhythms . . . the physical items that form the storys structural backbone. . . the absence of much of a plot in the thing. In many ways, The Things They Carried is a pure warstory. It has camaraderie, despair, violence and death, duty, longing and desire. It was very sad, Jimmy Cross thinks, The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do. In the world of Vietnam and the world of The Things They Carried, there is little room for anything else.