11.07.2019 in Literature

The Regret Essay Sample

“The Man I Killed” and “Ambush” are two different stories written by Tim O’Brien. In this particular article, these two stories will be analyzed citing the argument directly from the text. The social implications of the text in regard to American culture will also be considered. The two stories are different in their narration in that “The Man I Killed” is real, in that it presents the thoughts of O’ Brien after he kills a young man at war. On the other hand in the story, “Ambush” it is the narrator who is narrating the ordeals of what happened in the first story to his daughter Kathleen (O’Brien, 12).

Type of assignment
Type of service
Writer level
Number of pages
Total price:
Total price:


In “The Man I Killed” O’Brien is carried away by the agony that is portrayed by the young man on killing him in the war. He concentrates so much on his victim that his being in the story is not felt by the reader (O’Brien, 13). He is seen meditating through fantasy what had taken place in the life of the young man. He seems to regret his actions and this keeps on haunting him time without end. His thinking so much on the physical appearance of the young man clearly shows total betrayal of his inner being (O’Brien, 13).

Given that O’ Brien narrates the ordeals that take place from a protagonist’s point of view instead of being a story teller, the reader finds himself in a position that he cannot comment on the protagonist’s deeds and the only option is to share O’ Brien encounters. He portrays no comments on the killing in the Vietnam apart for men like Kiowa and Norman who try to get terms and views on the sad occurrence (O’Brien, 17). Instead, the narrator remembers how Curt had been murdered (O’Brien, 18). This shows the reader how O’ Brien employs techniques of distancing himself and does not let the reader know how he feels. To me, he finds solace in such things as appearances of his victim and through this mechanism he pushes his guilt away (O’Brien, 19).

The good for nothing dispositions and solace of O’Brien colleagues and eventual silence shows that we cannot deny the fact that death will always catch up with us on living our life (O’Brien, 22). Between the two colleagues Kiowa appears to be so much disturbed and instead of offers words of consolation telling O Brien says that killing is not a big thing after all (O’Brien, 25). It is ironical that he has killed an imitation of himself. He shares his sympathy the more when he realize that the young man is also in school. By deriving a lot of fantasy from the death of his victim, he continues to hurt his feelings (O’Brien, 26).

In the story “Ambush” O Brien is rather crafty in his narration. This is intentional as he tries to keep her daughter in light (O’Brien, 29). In this particular incidence he completely connects to the death that had taken place so many years back and helps the reader to understand what had taken place. The difference between these two stories is that, “ambush” is completely felt by the reader as it is meant for Kathleen as well as for O’Brien and he gives the story from his point of view unlike in “The Man I Killed” where the narrator occupies the position of the protagonist (O’Brien, 32).


From my observation, “the man I killed” is brought up by the author to portray the issues that he later addresses in “ambush” (O’Brien, 33). The disposition in “the man I killed” sets the ball rolling and in “ambush” it is like a continuation of story. Another difference that is witnessed between the two stories is that, while “the man I killed” is something that is real “ambush” is the narrator who is recalling what had happened so many years back (O’Brien, 34). This narration is meant to clear any doubts that the reader may have had while “the man I killed” because the story is not clear. His actions of everything he did are clearly brought out in this particular story (O’Brien, 39). He recalls how he launched the explosive which seemed rather slow in exploding the young man. This to me shows that O’ Brien was regretting what he had done but it was too late as he already done it (O’Brien, 40). He seems to clearly connect how the victim met his death and that it was too fast than he had anticipated. His creating fantasy of how the man was snatched high in the air as if pulled by a wire which one could not seen is clear that their acts were misguided and influenced by something else not within them (Bloom, 41).

In “the man I killed” it is clear that the soldiers have the human part in them that makes them have sympathy on their victim (O’Brien, 43). This is clearly seen when O’Brien says that the victim must have died a very miserable death owing to the explosion of the grenade. He is also carried away by the fact that his victim was a man of his age (O’Brien, 52). This is something that haunts him so much and he regrets why he did it to begin with. The contemplation that the victim used to compose some love poems and had fallen for his fellow student whom he later walks down the aisle before becoming a soldier and eventually meets his death is hard for O’Brien to come to terms with (O’Brien, 53).

The description of the dead soldier in the Vietnam War and the connection of the Mother Nature which is represented by the butterflies and the blue flowers show the immediacy of death before the wonderful nature (O’Brien, 61). Unlike Mother Nature which looks so beautiful, the ugliness of death which is brought by war is not a perfect match. The cruelty of man towards fellow human being is clearly seen. The victim died but his body was completely disfigured. By the author referring to the damages caused on the victim’s body is so as to portray the disadvantages of war. The disfigured body is symbolically used by the writer (O’Brien, 72).

The use of Kathleen by the writer is so as to show the reader that anything against nature haunts somebody until death. It is also symbolically used by the writer to indicate that whatever is done in darkness will surely come in the light (O’Brien, 80). Our conscience is very much alive in us and will only remain clear once that which is haunting us is brought in the light (O’Brien, 81). This is what O’ Brien does as he narrates to his daughter when she seeks to know whether he had killed anybody in his career as a soldier.

It can also be deduced that, despite the unfortunate death of the victim, the butterfly and the flowers indicates that it is not the end of life (O’Brien, 82). The symbolism is so clear because on the soldier dying the flower continues to blossom while the butterfly does not even seem to realize there is something like death that had taken place (O’Brien, 89). Instead of all that happening, these two stayed amid the tragic death of the soldier from Vietnam. Although the story is titled “the man I killed”, the author focuses so much on the good things about life more than death itself. To conclude, I can say that the author synthesizes the two stories in an artistic way making one real and the other a reflection of what had happened. The above is the analysis of the two stories as narrated in the book by Tim O’ Brien.

Related essays