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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tim O'Brien, author of "The Things They Carried," described Kiowa throughout the book as almost emotionless and not prone to verbosity or exaggeration.  Consequently, when Ted Lavender was shot and killed near the village of Than Khe, Kiowa's description of the event was as follows:

"There was no twitching or flopping.  Kiowa, who saw it happen, said it was like watching a rock fall, or a big sandbag or something -- just boom, then down -- not like in the movies where the dead guy rolls around and does fancy spins and goes ass over teakettle -- not like that, Kiowa said, the poor bastard just flat-f*** fell.  Boom. Down."

Kiowa represented the quiet confidence and competency that others in a squad or platoon respect.  He was the kind of guy you could count on when things got bad.  He and Tim O'Brien were close, but one gets the impression that closeness was born of a wordless mutual respect and was not something ever discussed, certainly among men forced to rely on each other for survival and to live in very close quarters for long stretches at a time.  Ted Lavender, on the other hand, was more visibly nervous, a definite liability in that environment.  As O'Brien described him, 

"Ted Lavender was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe..."

Lavender's death, while tragic, was not going to have the visceral affect on his fellow soldiers that the later death of Kiowa himself would have, except, of course, for Lieutenant Cross, who carried the guilt of Lavender's death inside.  Kiowa's lack of emotion in describing Lavender's death speaks to the inability of such men to show emotion in each other's company -- a sign of weakness -- and the more powerful need to harden onself to the regularity of violent, sudden deaths involving those to whom one is closest.

Read the study guide:
The Things They Carried

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