How To Tell A True War Story Summary

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In O’Brien’s ‘How To Tell A True War Story’, the story he tells us about Rat Kiley shooting the baby water buffalo both disturbs and intrigues. The act itself is without a doubt horrific, but it does not elicit a response of disgust. The question itself remains however, why did he shoot the buffalo in the first place? Rat’s actions were not random, pointless cruelty, but are in fact indicative of a much deeper, more complex emotional state. We must eliminate several more obvious answers first, but we can find that Rat Kiley is trying to reconcile what he is feeling with the situation he finds himself in. We can begin by looking at the act itself for details that will help us understand. First, look at the fact that when Rat comes across the baby buffalo, his first reaction is not cruelty, but kindness. He offers it food, “…but the baby buffalo wasn’t…show more content…
We must consider the death of Curt Lemon, Rat’s best friend, shortly before this. “…Curt Lemon stepped on a booby-trapped 105 round. He was playing catch with Rat Kiley, laughing, and then he was dead” (O’Brien 78). Rat had lost his best friend right before his eyes at the age of 19. The death of someone close is always difficult, but to happen so unexpectedly and at such a young age, the effect would most likely be much worse. This seems to lend credence to the theory that Rat was driven insane, which would explain his actions, but this does not seem to fit. Someone who was crazy or only out to cause pain would not have attempted to feed the buffalo at first, or shown any signs of remorse, whereas at the end, “Rat Kiley was crying. He tried to say something, but then cradled his rifle and went off by himself” (O’Brien 79). But, the loss of Curt Lemon does begin to support the claim that Rat was in a very emotional

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