Analysis of The Things They Carried

1048 Words5 Pages
Usually when someone is murdered, people expect the murderer to feel culpable. This though, is not the case in war. When in war, a soldier is taught that the enemy deserves to die, for no other reason than that they are the nation’s enemy. When Tim O’Brien kills a man during the Vietnam War, he is shocked that the man is not the buff, wicked, and terrifying enemy he was expecting. This realization overwhelms him in guilt. O’Brien’s guilt has him so fixated on the life of his victim that his own presence in the story—as protagonist and narrator—fades to the black. Since he doesn’t use the first person to explain his guilt and confusion, he negotiates his feelings by operating in fantasy—by imagining an entire life for his victim, from his…show more content…
But with the same fantasy, he also tortures himself, by imagining exactly why the man’s death might be such a horrible tragedy. O’Brien feeds his guilt by imagining that the man he killed was in the prime of his life. By imagining that the man he killed wrote romantic poems in his journal and had fallen in love with a classmate whom he married before he enlisted as a common rifleman, O’Brien can more easily identify with his victim and understand the terrible nature of the killing. When describing the life of the man he killed O’Brien starts every sentence with the word “He” as if to make it clear that even though the man and O’Brien were similar, it was still the man’s life that was ended not O’Brien’s. Also by continuously using “He” O’Brien tries to separate himself from the man—to make him the enemy—but in the end he fails. O’Brien can’t justify what he did because the realization that the man was just a regular man shatters his idea of the Vietnamese deserving the violence. The futile comments and half-hearted attempts of comfort made by the other soldiers along with the conspicuous silence demonstrate that nothing can erase the harsh reality of what has occurred. Azar’s pitiless offers of congratulations and his comparisons of the dead boy to “oatmeal”, and “Rice Krispies” ignore the painful
Open Document