Ted Lavender in The Things They Carried

Ted Lavender in The Things They Carried
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  • 0:05 Ted Lavender
  • 0:42 Lavender's Death
  • 2:02 Jimmy Cross' Guilt
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Myers

Kimberly has taught college writing and rhetoric and has a master's degree in Comparative Literature.

This lesson is a character description of Ted Lavender in Tim O'Brien's ''The Things They Carried.'' Ted Lavender is the first member of Alpha Company to die in the book. Before he dies, Lavender pops tranquilizers to calm his fear of dying.

Ted Lavender

In Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, a book of linked short stories, Ted Lavender is significant primarily for his death. He is the first character to die, so his death inherently marks a change in the narrative: death has touched Alpha company, and it won't be the last time.

Alive, Lavender is simply a young, scared soldier. He carries marijuana, tranquilizers, and extra ammo to ease his nerves. We don't get to know him very well. We do see him adopt an orphaned puppy, but the puppy meets an early death, like Lavender himself.

Lavender's Death

In mid-April, Alpha Company is searching out and destroying Vietcong tunnel complexes. While one of the other men was down in a tunnel and everyone was waiting to see if he would come back up, Ted Lavender popped some tranquilizers and went off to pee. Just as Lee Strunk re-emerges safely and everyone is laughing and joking with him about returning from the dead, Lavender is shot in the head as he walks back from peeing.

Kiowa, who saw it happen, is struck by how quickly Lavender went down. Kiowa said 'It was like watching a rock fall, or a big sandbag or something - just boom, then down.' O'Brien comments on the exceptionally heavy load Lavender was carrying: all of the regular gear, plus extra ammunition, tranquilizers, and his fear, which was undoubtedly a heavy burden.

Through Lavender's death, O'Brien is able to show how quickly death happens in war. The circumstances of Lavender's death are not all that remarkable, he was just walking back from peeing, but it happened just the same. It is also a preventable death, and through that fact shows how expendable life is within the broader context of the war. O'Brien also shows how the survivors try to get through their encounter with death in a variety of ways, whether it's jokes or mourning.

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