In the chapters “Ambush” and “Style” in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, ideas from previous chapters are further reiterated for the reader. Both chapters deal with horrifying scenarios during the war that emotionally add to what the reader takes away from these stories.
The first chapter, “Ambush,” is about the idea of Tim finally telling his daughter, Kathleen, that he did in fact kill someone during the war in Vietnam. He imagines doing this when she has reached the age of adulthood. She originally asked him when she was nine years old, and wanting to spare her of the implications of telling her that he had killed another human being, he simply lies to protect her innocence. Whereas in the chapter “The Man I Killed,” Tim takes the third person perspective to tell the story, he imagines telling his daughter the story in his own view. Much is repeated in this chapter that was already said in “The Man I Killed,” but the tone of it is much different.
The main idea of this story in my mind is to show once again that Tim is not the stereotypical soldier by any means. I think that what a lot of the general public thinks is that American troops enjoyed killing Vietnam soldiers at the time,and that may be very true, but not much is said about those who hated the idea of taking another person’s life. Tim even says “I was terrified. There were no thoughts about killing. The grenade was to make him go away—just evaporate.”(133) Another comparison this chapter could be made to would be “On the Rainy River.” Both chapters deal with the same idea that “Ambush” does, that Tim is a man who has a problem with taking the easy path. It would be easy for Tim to kill this man and never feel a single emotion for him, just like how it would be easy for Tim to leave to go to Canada before the war. Tim has an underlying quality that makes him unique amongst the other soldiers in his platoon, a quality that makes him the man who would tell his daughter the truth and not hide his secret forever. Tim knows inside he is a better man than what is typical, what is stereotypical of other men at his time. When he mentions Kiowa, he says that Kiowa tried to reassure him of the fact that this man probably would have died anyway, and that Tim did the right thing in killing him. Tim doesn’t agree with this; he doesn’t accept excuses like other men.The second chapter “Style,” has more of a focus on the common idea that Tim O’Brien uses in his writing that two completely opposite things can become complements during the chaos of war. I think how “The Man I Killed” is a predecessor to “Ambush”, “Church” is like a prequel to the “Style.” Both stories are not overly complicated, they just focus on ironic moments that arrest the reader. In “Style,” Henry Dobbins and Azar find a young teenage girl who has just found her house burned down and her family dead in her village. The shocking part is that the girl is dancing. Similar to “Church,” where the portion where he talks about the monks cleaning the guns arrested me, this moment arrested me as well. Lazar asks, “why is she dancing?” Dobbins doesn’t have an answer for him, and later threatens to dump him in water for disrespecting the girls dance. No one really knows why the girl is dancing, but Henry says that he thinks the girl just likes to dance. It is an odd moment for sure, and one that cannot really be explained, but it gives the reader pause and asks questions. This is a writing tool O’Brien continues to use throughout the story, and puts the majority of the thinking on the reader’s end, which I like.
I think this photo really questions whether the impact of killing is worth the mental weight you carry with you for possibly the rest of your life, and I think this particular soldier may be more of the stereotypical, stoic type that I mentioned above.