Notes and Quotes – “The Man I Killed” and “Ambush”, Tim O’Brien


Notes – “The Man I Killed” and “Ambush”:

O’Brien makes his first enemy kill known, the experience is scarring, leaves him scarred, perhaps even intentionally he looks upon the corpse he’s made, and he means to burn the memory into his mind, so that he may never forget, and always carry the happening with him like finding comfort in discomfort. As the saying goes, kill or be killed, but the spirit of the dead, the killed, remain in the mind. The memory becomes the ghost, the haunting, and too much reflecting on what happened may serve as the soldier’s invitation to join those he’s helped to the other side.

Quotes – “The Man I Killed”:

Azar: “‘Rice Crispies, you know? On the dead test, this particular individual gets A-plus.’” (120)

“Later, Kiowa said, ‘I’m serious. Nothing anybody could do. Come on, Tim, stop staring.’”(120)

“‘A good kill – weapon, ammunition, everything.’” (123)

“Clean fingernails, clean hair – he had been a soldier for only a single day.” . . .

“He knew he would die quickly. He knew he would see a flash of light. He knew he would fall dead and wake up in the stories of his village and people.” (123-4)

Quote – “Ambush”:

“Later, I remember, Kiowa tried to tell me that the man would’ve died anyway. He told me that it was a good kill, that I was a soldier and this was a war, that I should shape up and stop staring and ask myself what the dead man would’ve done if things were reversed.” (127)


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