Most of the literature that is written depicts characters that have specific views of the world and what goes on around them. A good literary material should bring out characters that are transformed in their mental perspective. In particular, there are characters that are faced with a lot of dilemma in their early stages of life. Mistakes that they make in their early lives later shape them into mature and responsible people. These characters find themselves going through a lot of things due to their present situations. They know their responsibilities, but due to the distractions and problems at hand, they find themselves making other contrary decisions. Such decisions sometimes bring trouble to them. Research has it that experience is a greater teacher than classroom learning. Personal transformation always comes from events that we interact with in nature.
“Barn Burning” and “The Things They Carried” are two stories with personally transformed characters. Both of them have characters that are in a dilemma. Each of these characters undergoes a number of stages that eventually transform their perspective of life. The characters eventually become aware of their responsibilities in the society. The process of transformation gives them the ability to choose what is right against what their feelings desire. This is a journey of transformation from childhood to adulthood. In the story “Barn Burning”, Col Sarty Snopes is a son to Abner Snopes. He is introduced in a court case where he testifies in case involving his father who burned a fellow man’s barn. He knows very well that his father is not a good man. He even saw his father committing the offence. He is torn between supporting his father because they are connected by blood and telling truth about his father. He has his worldview that is different from his father’s. he finds himself in a dire dilemma.
Col Sarty faces a situation where he has a choice of whether to stand by his father or be faithful and say the truth. He grows up with the full knowledge of what kind of a father he has. He knows clear that most things his father does are not of any help to the society. Sarti Snopes knows that defending him is wrong. But testifying against him is difficult as he wants to be loyal to him due to the blood relations between them. This character grows up wishing that his father could change and be a good person. He defends and praises him at the beginning of the story that he is “wolf-like independent”. He says that this is the reason the family is tied together. This clearly shows how he values his father. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter faces Sarty head-on. His father burned someone’s barn and he has to face the law.
As a child, Sarty is aware of the consequences of not obeying his father. He therefore dares not go against him. As much as he smelled “fierce pull of blood”, he continues to defend him. This was definitely his father’s blood smelling. Something was telling him that the family was about to lose an important name. In his childishness and lack of independence, he downplays these. He goes ahead to fight with boys whom he overhears calling his father a “barn burner”. He even shades his blood in the process. Abner Snopes goes ahead to use threats against Sarty as is seen when he slaps him. Abner does this after realizing that his son wanted to testify against him in the court. This further shows Sarty that he has no option but to obey his father. It is obvious that as a child, Sarty has no option but to follow the family values instituted by the head of the family.
Snopes convinces Sarty that he should be like him. Sarty believes this so much that at the court he defends the father and calls Major de Spain “…our enemy”. He knows that they have a common destiny with his father. It is so obvious that Sarty’s age has made him blind and obsessively follows the footsteps of the father. According to him, this is the correct direction. He is truly living in the world of his father. There is no respect of humanity in this world. Later, he grows up with the realization that he should be independent. He slowly realizes that the world of his father is not the right one. The quest for independence slowly and steadily starts to consume him. His father’s actions slowly start to grasp him. This makes him realize that he has to make an about-turn on his ways of thinking. The childishness slowly comes out of him.
He marvels at the mansion of Major de Spain. He gets the understanding of the inequality that exists between human beings. This gives him an admiration of where he wants to be. He thinks that his father should have been there, something that Snopes does not appreciate. Instead, Snopes becomes jealous of Major de Spain. At this point in life, Sarty realizes that he sees life in a different way from his father. They can no longer rhyme their characters. This scenario leads Sarty to make a decision that he will never be like his father. He refuses to borrow from his father’s past. The story ends in a scene where Sarty refuses to support his father in burning Major de Spain’s barn. He instead reports his father’s plan to Major de Spain, something that leads to Snope’s death. This death becomes a symbolism to Sarty as a breakup from the past and the childishness. He is therefore free to serve the humanity.
In the same way, Lt. Jimmy Cross in “The Things They Carried” is young soldier who joins the army. He is in charge of his group on a mission to Vietnam. He is too young to handle his group of soldiers. He seems to be not in charge of this team irrespective of the fact that they are prone to the enemy. He is obsessed with love to a lady who does not love him. Everybody in this team of soldiers seems affected by the leader’s behavior. His lack of charge causes Ted Lavender to be shot dead by the enemy. This is what opens his eyes to grow up and take charge of the group. This incident gives him guilt as he blames himself for not subverting the catastrophe. His transformation comes through guilt after his group incurs casualties. The story clearly show what every soldier carries. They have carried more that what they require. This is a clear sign of lack of confidence. In any team, it is always required of the team leader to boost the morale of his subjects. If the team leader himself is distracted, then their will be no order. This is the case with this team as there is no where Jimmy Cross coordinates and encourages the team.
He is obsessed with his former schoolmate girlfriend called Martha. She sends him letters and pictures of her. Jimmy seems to be preoccupied with this lady who shows no evidence of any affection towards him. He only fanaticizes of one time he had taken her to a date. He tried to touch her knees but was vehemently rebuffed. He wishes to have taken her home and “kept his hands on her knees all night”. Jimmy keeps the pebble he has been sent by Martha in his mouth all night wishing it was her tongue. The soldiers are filled with fear and they keep on day dreaming of escaping from the war. They see themselves weightlessly flying higher and higher away from the battlefield. Jimmy’s daydreaming has infected all the members of the team. Each one of them is preoccupied by different things. They are weighed down by emotions and other physical burdens they carry. This shows how Jimmy is ignorant of the fact that the safety of all the members in combat is upon him. Ted Lavender is the first casualty in this group. It is also said that he was the most afraid of all the soldiers. He was overloaded with excess ammunitions than the required amount. It should be understood as mentioned above that it is the work of the leader to boost the spirits of the subjects. Jimmy was nowhere to do this and many soldiers who were afraid lost their lives in battlefront.
Jimmy Cross is filled with guilt over the death of Ted Lavender. He feels he did not do enough to prevent the death of a colleague. He now realizes that he could have done something to subvert Ted’s shooting and demise. This becomes his turning point in the battle field. He decides to be fully in charge of the team to see to it that no one else suffers casualty. The rest of the team is tensed as they fear for their own lives. He decides to burn all the pictures and letters sent by Martha. He blames them for confusing him too much. He also denounces that he does not love her. He decides to concentrate on his team henceforth. The seriousness that was needed from the beginning is seen at this point. The team is put in order and they decide to do away with the excess luggage they had carried. This is to make them lighter for combat. His childishness made her not to do what he was to do at the right time. Instead, he concentrated on the less important things. He is instead obsessed with a lady who has never gotten interested on him. He neglects his responsibility and the repercussion is not a sweet affair. This acts as an eye opener and he decides to grow up to being a leader in the combat. His naivety brought a situation where he did not believe that anything wrong could happen to them.
These two stories are quite similar in the sense that people are given responsibilities at a time when they cannot quite make formidable decisions. They make mistakes that lead them to the realization of the truth. They later change to take up their positions in their respective places. Sarty blindly supports the father who is a bother to the society due to the fact that they are related. He also desires to be like the father. This however changes after he comes of age. He decides to find his own voice to speak. He makes rational decisions in life and avoids repeating the mistakes of the father. After the father dies, it marks the fulfillment of his maturity. He is left with the belief in the justice of the society. The good must prevail over evil. He becomes a true example of a breakthrough in a rational world.
In conclusion, all these characters are transformed in to better people after going through stages in life. Their ignorance in the beginning led to their transformations that mark their maturity. At this point in life, their perceptions towards life changes.