The Man I Killed In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, he emphasizes a chapter on “The Man I Killed”, which describes the characteristics of a young Vietnamese man in which O’Brien may or may not have killed with a grenade. The novel is not chronologically sequenced, which leaves more room for the reader to engage in a critical thought process that fully bridges the author’s mind to their own. In O’Brien’s chapter, “The Man I Killed”, he attempts to humanize the enemy in a way that draws little separation between the enemy and himself by relating the enemy’s life prior to the war to his, and illustrates the war through the eyes of the soldiers who fought it. To understand “The Man I Killed”, the reader must first enlighten themselves upon O’Brien’s fictional character. In the earlier parts of the book, specifically “On the Rainy River”, the author describes himself as someone who never viewed himself as a soldier prior to the war. In American society it is an honor and a privilege to fight for one’s country, but if choosing to decline the call, one could face themselves with what O’Brien terms as “embarrassment”. As for O’Brien, he defined himself as not a soldier, but a scholar. In his own words he wrote he was “Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude and president of the student body and a full-ride scholarship for grad studies at Harvard. A mistake, maybe- a foul-up in the paperwork. I was no soldier” (O’Brien 39). Many college students could relate to him at the time, as they were called to war. By knowing anything about that time period in American history, most did not support Preston 2 the war, especially educated college students. Yet, above all else, most willingly left for the draft despite their views opposing the war. When the author ... ... middle of paper ... ... irrelevant that O’Brien may or may not have actually killed the boy on the trail outside of My Khe. Rather, we take a step into the minds of the ones who were called and imagine ourselves as in Vietnam. Preston 4 Tim O’Brien describes “The Man I Killed” to present the reader with a parallel illustrating a deceased enemy’s life prior to the war, and his own life before the war in order to allow the reader to view similarities of the enemy and himself. In all, readers can look beyond the fiction of the novel to assume many soldiers of the time felt the same as O’Brien did. Ignoring what is fact and fiction, we can relate to the war each in our own way. The two chapters intertwine with the entire book to establish a presence of sobering humility, and above all else we view the world inside the mind of a soldier who viewed the minds of others.

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