Journal: The Things They Carried
Personally, I do not consider Lieutenant Cross responsible for Lavender’s death, even though Cross felt very sorry for the death of his peer and found himself guilty. Lavender was shot “on his way back from peeing” after a mission had been finished and everybody was relaxing without caution. Cross’s guilty feeling originated from the fact that his mind was very engaged in his relationship with Martha – the girlfriend he loved but at the same time suspected of betrayal for no clear objective reasons.
In fact, it was the distance and the harsh reality of the war that distorted his love and kept obsessing him about the day he would be free from it and have Martha forever. However, Lavender’s death shocked and depressed Cross. Cross thought the platoon, including Cross himself was careless, selfish and irresponsible, judging by his thoughts to put it in discipline. Cross blamed himself especially for loving Martha more than his men and concluded that he should “dispense with love”. This is merely an effort of Cross to reason with himself. The story explained the soldiers actually pretended to look unaffected by Lavender’s death by talking about it nastily. This was not “cruelty, just stage presence”, and the soldiers are actors on that stage. Cross was the one who expressed external sorrow for the death of Lavender and he decided to burn anything related to Martha – the letters, her photographs.
He initially thought this would help him to forget about his assumed guilt and the root of it – his love for Martha, but soon he realized he could not burn the blame. This detail reflects a normal psychological movement: when a person is strongly affected by a truth, he is likely to perform an act that helps to relieve his feeling. With Cross being a soldier with strong personality patterns, there is little doubt he would decide to burn the few pieces of memory left with his girlfriend to make up, to some extent, for the irreversible …