The Issue Of Morality In War In The Things They Carried

1249 words - 5 pages

Tim O’ Brien uses stories as a way to express the various emotions he felt during the Vietnam War. The stories he tells throughout the book are told later on to be a complete work of fiction, but the things they bring up and talk about are true. O’Brien’s tells these fictional truths in order to show how war in general is senseless, and leaves men unable to distinguish the morality between right and wrong.
O’Brien uses Ted Lavender’s quick death in the very beginning of the novel as a lead in for the kind of emotions the men have towards the war and each other. Kiowa provides a very good example, “Boom-down” he says (O’Brien 16). He is amazed by the suddenness of it, but not necessarily that a member of their squad has just lost his life. His lack of grief is providing an insight to how the other men of the squad think and feel when it comes to things as serious as life and death. The war has turned them into impersonal men lacking the ability to even grieve. After Lavender died, the only person that O’Brien showed having a true emotional response to his death was Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. He only felt guilty for Lavender’s death because of his distraction with thoughts of Martha. The lack of morality in this story however appears at the point when the Lieutenant leads his men on a pointless and uncalled for massacre on the village of Than Khe. “They burned everything. They shot chickens and dogs, they trashed the village well, they called in artillery and watched the wreckage…” (15). There was no point to ravaging the village as they did. Although O’Brien does not explicitly say they killed everyone, it is implied when they call in the artillery because there would be no point to evacuating the village before you destroyed it in a war. Lieutenant Cross marched on Than Khe and killed probably dozens of innocent people just because of his guilt over Lavender’s death. Instead of going after who was most likely responsible like the Viet Cong; the squad murders people in cold blood and fails to see how that is morally wrong. Their friend’s death has not had the effect of making them grieve or deal with the loss. It has turned them into monsters. Capable of things they do not even realize are wrong.
Rat Kiley and his drawn out execution of the baby water buffalo further serve to show how a man can lose what ought to be his sense of morality when it comes to war. Curt Lemon was Riley’s best friend and he died not bravely or valiantly in battle, but instead was killed by some stupid landmine while playing catch. That senselessness infuriates Kiley to the point that he decides to take it out on one of the most innocent things he can. O’Brien deliberately makes the animal a baby because people have a natural idea that babies are innocent from all of the world’s sin. “He shot it twice in the flanks. It wasn’t to kill; it was to hurt” (75). Kiley wants to inflict as much pain as is possible for this baby creature to sustain without dying merely as a...

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