Destruction In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In the book “The Things They Carried”, Tim O’Brien admits to killing only one man during his war career, and relays it in the chapter “The Man I Killed”. In this chapter, O’Brien surveys the mangled body of the Vietnamese man he has just murdered, and desperately attempts to humanize the dead man as a coping method for his guilt. The chapter embodies a unique, and extremely detailed repetitive writing style which serves as a symbol of O’Brien’s scrutiny over his irrevocable action. The chapter begins with an exceptionally detailed description of the Vietnamese soldier’s body, as O’Brien surveys his destruction. Yet, the paragraph seems to contain a certain positive connotation, mentioning the “butterfly on [the man’s] chin” (118) his “clean,…show more content…
Although he has no way of knowing anything about the man’s life, O’Brien attempts to humanize the soldier by creating a story for him, and memorializing it in order to place meaning on the man’s life. It is interesting to note that parts of O’Brien’s description of the soldier’s life reflect his own feelings. For example, while speaking about the man’s recruitment to the army, O’Brien tells, “…secretly…[the war] frightened him. He was not a fighter.” (119), and that “he could not picture himself doing…brave things. He hoped in his heart that he would never be tested”. This manifests the thoughts of O’Brien as, he too was fearful of going to war, and had no desire to fight, as well as preferred a classroom environment compared to a battlefield. In conclusion, the continuous repetition of the description of the soldier’s body represents the idea that this irrevocable action will forever be with O’Brien, and the minor details of the description serve to reveal different messages of the story. In the chapter “The Man I Killed” O’Brien struggles to understand the implications of his actions, as well as to cope with his guilt. Through the constant repetition and the vivid description O’Brien attempts to humanize the soldier, and assign meaning and purpose to the life of the man who suffered such an idle death. O’Brien writes a meaningful chapter
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