Study Guide

The Things They Carried The Man I Killed

By Tim O'Brien

The Man I Killed

  • There's a slim, dead, almost dainty young man lying on the ground. His jaw is in his throat, and O'Brien was the one to kill him. He wears a wedding band on his long, delicate fingers.
  • O'Brien thinks that the man might have been a scholar, born in the village of My Khe, who was a citizen, not a communist, and who secretly would rather not have fought.
  • Azar, helpful as always, points out how extremely dead the young man is. Kiowa tells him to go away.
  • Kiowa tries to get O'Brien to stop staring at the body and talk. O'Brien doesn't respond, but keeps staring at the body. Kiowa tells him to take all the time he needs.
  • O'Brien decides that the man he killed probably loved mathematics, and was never able to get in fights at school, and worried that he would shame himself and his village.
  • Again, Kiowa tries to get O'Brien to talk. And, again, O'Brien ignores him.
  • O'Brien thinks that maybe the young man went to college for mathematics and met a woman who loved him, and they got married.
  • Kiowa tells O'Brien that they all had the young man in their sights, that it's only chance that Tim is the one who got him first.
  • The young man had only been a soldier for a day. O'Brien is sure.
  • Kiowa begs O'Brien to talk.