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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you are referring to the story, “The Man I Killed” in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  The story is a look at the guilt and sorrow O’Brien feels after killing his first North Vietnamese soldier.  O’Brien stands over the body, and in his writing, describes every detail of the soldier’s wounds.  As he is doing this, he is imagining who the soldier was and invents a story about his life.  In the story, the soldier is much like O’Brien—young, in love with his wife, a scholar attending college who also writes poetry, and in the army because of a duty he feels to his family.  This is reminiscent of O’Brien’s struggle in the story, “On the Rainy River” when he decides to join the army because of a sense of duty and to avoid embarrassing himself and his family.  In this story, O’Brien is humanizing his enemy with the intention of giving his readers a message.   Perhaps if we all knew the stories and lives of our enemy, it would be harder to kill them, for they are just like us. 

Kiowa searches the dead man and finds a picture of a girl standing in front of a motorcycle.  To O’Brien, this is just more piece of proof of how similar we are to the enemies we fight.  This is also O’Brien’s way to keep those who died in Vietnam alive through stories and memories, a theme that runs throughout the novel.

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The Things They Carried

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