The Man I Killed Literary Analysis Essay

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Is Tim O’Brien a murderer? In the story The Things They Carried, “The Man I Killed,” William Timothy O’Brien is the author and the character Tim. Although the story is fictional, many of the details were from O’Brien’s experience in the Vietnam War. He wrote the story to share his experiences, to allow people to understand what he felt while in the war and to feel at peace with the horrors he witnessed as a soldier. The character Tim O’Brien and the author William Timothy O’Brien are very similar because both grew up in Worthington, Minnesota, attended Macalester College, and wrote about war experiences. Although the real O’Brien and the character have some similarities, the difference is that the author never killed someone in war and does not have children (Sparknotes). In…show more content…
The reason that he is so attentive to the details is because it is a way to distance himself from the reality of death and focus on something else to ignore the painful guilt of his actions. In the opening of the story, Tim starts out by describing the man’s appearance, “His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star shaped hole…” (O’Brien 172). Tim does not miss a single detail about the man’s appearance because he feels such guilt for it and is trying to understand the realities of death. At first, Tim only talks about the gruesome and ugly details of the man’s death but then he starts to describe the beautiful details of the surroundings. For example, he describes, “The butterfly [that] was making its way along the young man’s forehead… [And] Along the trail there were small blue flowers shaped like bells” (O’Brien 174). There is such a difference in the details because it shows that Tim realizes that there is beauty in death and that helps him cope with killing the
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