The Man I Killed By Tim O ' Brien Essay

The Man I Killed By Tim O ' Brien Essay

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The Man I Killed, a short story about the traumatic experience of the Vietnam War was written by Tim O’Brien and published in 1990. As a scholar who graduated from Macalester College, O’Brien was drafted into the army to fight in Vietnam, which shattered his plan of continuing his studies. He felt obligated to fight in a war he did not want to participate in. After returning from Vietnam, he began writing to cope with his suffering. In the story, O’Brien depicts how the murder he committed had a profound impact on his life physically and psychologically. He emphasizes his torment by the use of imagery and imagination. His fellow soldiers, Azar and Kiowa, try to ease O’Brien’s misery in order to continue the battle. The story explores the theme of war by emphasizing the chaos of battle itself and the gruesome impact it can have on an individual.
Azar and Kiowa both try to mitigate Tim’s grief, but in different ways. Azar plays the traditional role of a soldier who is ready to fight for his country. He’s less emotional but more prideful than Kiowa and Tim. Azar’s role is to execute all orders assigned to him. He doesn’t have sorrow for his enemy and shows that the agony of war does not affect him. He says, “you scrambled his sorry self, look at that, you did, you laid him out like Shredded fuckin’ Wheat” (980), trying to alleviate Tim’s distress. Because Azar is comfortable in the war zone, he thinks that complimenting Tim on the killing will ease his trauma. Kiowa, on the other hand, is more sympathetic and tries to calm Tim by saying, “I’m serious. Nothing anybody could do. Come on, stop staring” (981). Tim thinks he is to blame for the soldier’s death, but Kiowa explains to Tim that the soldier would have been killed anyway becau...


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...e face of pristine natural phenomena. O’Brien observes his victim lying on the side of the road: “his jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone” (979), emphasizing the unnaturalness of war amid nature. The contrast of images is an incredibly ironic one that suggests the tragedy of death amid so much beauty. However, the presence of the butterfly and the tiny blue flowers also suggests that life goes on even despite such unspeakable tragedy. After O’Brien killed the Vietnamese soldier, the flowers didn’t shrivel up, and the butterfly didn’t fly away. They stayed and found their home around the tragedy.
In essence, O’Brien uses descriptive imagery to emphasize the trauma war can cause on a person. This anti-war story informs the reader about war by providing an example of a soldier’s anguish during combat and the negative effects war can have on a person.

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