Coping With Guilt At War Analysis

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Coping With Guilt at War In the novel The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, the soldiers take responsibility for the deaths of friends, and have to find ways to cope with their severe guilt. The Vietnam War puts a heavy burden on O’Brien and his fellow soldiers, especially since they are reluctantly drafted by the U.S. government. The soldiers are being forced to be in a war in which most of them do not believe, thus also being forced to take on these mental and physical responsibilities. The whole plat oon feels extreme guilt for for these seemingly unreasonable deaths of their fellow troops. Finding ways to cope with this guilt is remarkably difficult, particularly in such an intense war fought in a completely foreign country. The coping…show more content…
They would pull the pin off a smoke grenade and toss it back and forth until one person chickened out (the yellow mother) or it exploded in mid air. They knew this was a dangerous game, as did the rest of the soldiers, who were not big fans of yellow mother. During one of the brutal games, the grenade accidentally blows up at Curt Lemon, and Rat Kiley is stunned. Lemon steps out into the light, where the rest of his platoon members could see him, with a brown face. The sunlight gleamed off of him, in a somewhat peaceful way, although he had just passed away because of a silly game. Rat Kiley feels complete responsibility for Lemon’s death, and indeed, finds his own coping mechanism. The soldiers see a young water buffalo near by, and Rat Kiley already knew what he was going to do to try to rid himself of his guilt. Kiley steps closer to the buffalo with a gun, and torturously shoots at it. He does not immediately kill the water buffalo, but instead shoots it in places he knows the animal will feel immense pain and sorrow. He would not stop shooting the buffalo all over its body; its legs, torso, face, everywhere. “The whole platoon stood there watching, feeling all kinds of things, but there wasn’t a great deal of pity for the baby water buffalo. Curt Lemon was dead. Rat Kiley had lost his best friend in the world...Nothing moved except [the buffalo’s] eyes, which were enormous, the pupils shiny…show more content…
It looks extremely different, all dry, peaceful. O’Brien sees two farmers digging in the same exact spot the soldiers had found Kiowa’s lifeless body decades ago. His daughter Kathleen comments on the stench of the place, and it reminds him of the night of Kiowa’s death; how horrid it smelled, how terrifying the bombing was. “Kathleen had just turned ten, and this trip was a kind of birthday present, showing her the world, offering a small piece of her father’s history...even during those periods of boredom and discomfort she’d kept up a good-humored tolerance. At the same time, however, she’d seemed a bit puzzled. The war was as remote to her as cavemen and dinosaurs.” (174) She did not understand why her father had to partake in this war, and upon asking him, he answers with a simple “I don’t know...Because I had to be.” (175) She still did not understand how the war worked or why it happend, and how people were drafted, and as he was finding out himself, it was a mystery to O’Brien as well. Weeks later, they revisit the long-lost shit hole, and O’Brien brings a bundle with him. He goes down to the river, gets in, and unwraps the bundle, revealing Kiowa’s old moccasins. O’Briens feet recognized the feel of the the bottom of the muck. Even twenty years later, O’Brien copes with his true friends death. He returns Kiowa’s moccasins to the spot where his body lay dead, letting
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