Our English class


In “How To Tell A War Story”, a baby water buffalo is killed, little by little.  What purpose did it serve Rat Kiley to do what he did to the baby water buffalo?

In “The Man I Killed” Kiowa “laid him out like Shredded F$%&*# ing Wheat.”  He justified the killing to Tim saying, “Tim, it’s a war. The other guy wasn’t Heidi – he had a weapon, right? It’s a tough thing, for sure, but you got to cut out that staring.”

What is the meaning of death? How did the death of the water buffalo and the death of the man fit into what these men were experiencing? What is the point of telling a war story?  Write a short essay (at least three paragraphs) discussing these questions.


6 responses

  1. fneenan23

    What is the meaning of death? Well death can mean a lot of things to people; they mean quite a few things to me. Such as when someone is gone, no longer alive. When you are no longer allowed to see them or hear them, when someone is gone and doesn’t come back to you. Another meaning of death is being absent for a while. Death can also mean having been murdered or poisoned; suicide, drugged, and shot or dead of old age. Losing someone who is close to you, such as a soul mate, a best friend. If you lose family because of death the family wouldn’t stop asking why.

    The men were experiencing horrible things such as trust issues, they worried that someone was going to kill them, while they were asleep. They made friends while in war. They were afraid, scared to move on. They watched out for each other on patrol. They slept together, and they have been through hell and back. Also they cared for each other. They carried tangible items such as weapons and intangible items such as the memory of holding your girlfriend so they could survive in the war. They learned to carry 16.9 pounds of weapons and ammunition. They also had to worry about themselves as well as their family back home. They had many emotions. One of their most important concerns was survival. They had to experience are army buddy’s getting killed or committing suicide.

    So I think this is how almost every war story starts off, “one day my buddy was over in Vietnam…. “Well I think people like to tell war stories because they either try to top someone else’s story, or they just want to tell you, or they are trying to make a point or prove a point. So I think this is how their story is going to go. How? Well, they just tell the story and don’t even ask if you still understand or follow it. They just go and go and go with the story until it is over. They don’t even stop or pause so the listener can ask questions or to tell it again. Also people like to hear stories and some people like to tell war stories. Sometimes perhaps people like to make war stories sound pretty unrealistic. Because people could get bored of the same story and to just put a change in it and to have a different conversation.

    The men didn’t want to kill the baby water buffalo; they just wanted to hurt it. Not out of disrespect or hate but out of innocence. Rat Kiley didn’t just walk up and shoot it, he didn’t mean any disrespect or hate to the baby water buffalo it was all innocent because they had lost an army buddy. They felt like they wanted to get justice served for their lost army buddy. They did take it pretty well because if I was them and I saw a friend or army buddy die right in front of me I would cry and not go back to war because I would be afraid to. They are afraid of fear not embarrassment. They went on and still went to war even knowing their army buddy’s had been killed. That shows courage in my eyes. You can experience shock from watching someone die, you can also become violent and kill someone. They felt like shit for killing the boy. They also thought it was okay to just kill that young man. Tim didn’t feel bad at first but I don’t even know what hit him he developed a guilty conscious I think. If he felt bad for killing the boy why would he just leave the boy there in the trail hidden behind trees and branches? I mean you kill people and wound people in the war but you would feel bad that you killed a boy. I think they were experiencing not having a soul. They don’t feel bad for killing the boy when they did. Now they do.

    June 10, 2011 at 9:55 am

  2. jdmb16

    I think death happens for a few different reasons. For instance I think death is another form of life. People are born on this earth and if nothing died, then there would be too many people and animals. There’s no way we could live if nothing died. How would we get food, soil and other things that are important? People die so everyone around them sees how short life is and then the family reunites and get closer. Death is just a way of life and everything happens for a reason, if people didn’t die who knows what would go on in this world probably a lot more wars and we would still have racial issues.

    The men were experiencing some difficult things that could cause you to go a little psycho because seeing people getting killed every single day is a big deal. It’s sad seeing someone die especially knowing that was someone’s kid that just got killed. If you’ve had a relative die you know how it feels and it doesn’t feel good. It’s lousy, everyone is sad for a pretty long time. These guys had to constantly walk with a lot of weight on their backs their backpacks and their need for survival. They never knew when something was going to happen. Someone could step on a land mine or start getting shot at. It must be scary just knowing you could die at any moment and never see your family again.

    People tell a war story because stories are really interesting and you can learn a lot of things from them. You don’t know what happened 30 or 40 years ago so everything you learn about the war could help you someday when you’re learning or reading about the war sometimes you don’t want to stop because it pulls you in. You feel like you have to keep reading about it because it is so interesting. That’s why so many people write about war! They know people will read it and want to learn how things were back then.

    I think the men killed the water buffalo because they’ve been out in the jungle and where ever else they’ve been for a long time carrying a lot of weight walking through swamps and just taking a beating. They just felt so pissed and aggravated and didn’t know what to do so they figured they’d take their anger out on the water buffalo and torture and kill it. How ever once they did that they felt bad because they saw how the buffalo reacted once they started torturing it. They all knew that was going to be in the back of their minds reminding them of what they did.

    When they killed that man and saw how badly he was injured they felt really bad and gross. They just couldn’t get over the fact of how bad and how wrong it was to have done that to him no matter what the circumstances. They were staring into his eyes and they couldn’t look away because the pain inside them had already started. They all knew that they were going to have to live with what they had done for the rest of their lives. It’s terrible to see someone die but what had happened to this man was just unbelievable. Some people may act tough and say, “Oh it won’t bother me.” I’m sure that’s what these men were thinking. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they joined the army and once they had seen all this they were probably thinking that they never should have joined the army because its traumatizing.

    June 14, 2011 at 8:17 am

  3. dylancutler123

    Death? What is death? The release of ones soul? Or the loss of someone or something close to your heart? Death is when you are no longer alive. It’s when you move on to the after life, it’s the end of life and it’s the one thing in life we can’t escape from. Everything has a beginning as well as an end. Sometimes death can be an act of mercy. In the chapter Friends, Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk slowly became great friends, eventually creating a pact with each other. “In late August they made a pact that if one of them should ever get totally fucked up –a wheel chair wound- the other guy would automatically find a way to end it” (The Things They Carried, by Tim O Brien)

    How can we understand what the soldiers were experiencing during the Vietnam War? We can only imagine how horrifying the experiences were, based on the media and returning soldiers reports. At the beginning of the war many Americans were very anxious about Vietnam because they were scared about whether or not they would live or die. The soldiers were pissed about everything, the heat was unbearable, and the bugs were all over the place. The loss of a friend would enrage even the most quiet soldier. At night soldiers were worried about a variety of things, family, love or mourning the loss of their friends. Likely their biggest fear was not being able to see the next day.

    Why do we tell war stories? Some people enjoy the thrill war can bring to them that’s why; as a result, war movies are crafted. War stories are also told to inform the future generations of their experiences with war so younger generations don’t make the same mistakes. War stories are told to be able to have an understanding of the pain they went through as well as to honor the memory of those that gave their lives for their country.

    The soldiers didn’t mean to kill the baby water buffalo they only meant to cause it pain. The soldiers didn’t just run up to it and kill it, there was no hate involved when they began shooting it bit by bit, they were angry at the fact that they lost a friend. They felt as if causing the baby water buffalo some pain would give their dead friend the justice he deserved. In the end the baby water buffalo represents the anger the soldiers were feeling towards the war and the loss of friends during the war.

    When they killed the boy they felt at the time it was the right thing to do but at the same time they couldn’t help but think it wasn’t right to do. After Tim killed the boy he couldn’t help but stare at his corpse, the shock that he killed a child instead of a man caused his body to freeze, Tim wouldn’t let it go. Right after the boy was killed Azar came over to Tim to congratulate him on laying him out, “like Shredded fuckin’ Wheat.” Kiowa, understanding Tim’s pain told Azar at that time to give Tim some space. Later on Kiowa told Tim to not sweat it as there wasn’t anything he could have done. I’m sure on the inside Tim felt as dead as the child he killed because he realized that the boy might have had dreams and goals just like he did but the mere second Tim pulled the trigger he took the boys life away as well the boys hopes and dreams. Thinking about it weighed heavily on Tim.

    As the events of the war began unraveling, many of the men experienced anger and fear. The end result of their actions was a dead baby water buffalo and the remains of a child neither of which would ever be able to experience life. They all had their reasons for their actions whether it was out of revenge and anger, retaliation or self protection. In the end they all felt terrible about how they handled the situations but soon enough it was shrugged off like it never happened.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm

  4. becks224

    When someone dies you’re left with memories of them. There is always love, happiness and regret. Death isn’t always about someone dying. It can be a death or ending of a relationship you once had. When you die, you go to heaven. It’s a much better place because you don’t get hurt like in the real world. The only bad part about going to heaven is you’re gone for good. Death can also be if you get killed by someone else. That’s from people joking around trying to have fun. They just got killed, thinking that it was funny to joke around during war.

    In the Vietnam War the men experienced depression as a result of being away from home and having to leave their loved ones. They begin to go crazy, having hallucinations from lack of sleep. The men in Vietnam knew for sure what it was like to see people die right in front of them. They couldn’t get images of the men they killed out of their heads. The memories of what happened to them would stay with them forever. They might always wonder “What if?” What if they never had to get drafted? Constant reminders of those days put their lives through living hell.

    It is sometimes good to tell stories about your memories of war. You want to get the memories out of your head, trying to stop nightmares you had from the war. It could be entertainment for the people that you tell the war stories to. Then those people could tell other people about their experiences at war. They could interview the men from the war and write a book, make a movie, or do a show on television. Telling a war story can help with what you experienced.

    Putting the baby water buffalo through such torture wasn’t Rat Kiley’s intention. He wanted to take his anger out on something of the Viet Congs for killing his buddy. Sometimes you don’t know how to control yourself, and you just feel like you need to kill. Just like the killing of the man. He had a long life ahead of him, but going through that experience could put the killer in agony. Killing of a man and torture of a baby water buffalo could scar you and you wouldn’t be able to get the experience out of your mind. The men were scared to see these things happen, maybe they wanted to stop the torture of the buffalo, or the killing of the man, but they just couldn’t stop it.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

  5. bobbyblaze13

    What is the meaning of death? I think the meaning of death is that someone dies or gets killed or takes their own life. Everyone dies and is missed or hated. Like I’m sure when I die people are going to think I’m an asshole and some people are going to think I’m nice. I believe people go to Heaven and Hell. If you take your own life then you stay in the middle and you don’t go to either place. Some people cause death by killing people for their own pleasure like in the book when Rat Kiley killed the baby water buffalo little by little just for fun. Some people like doing that. It makes them feel good about themselves and I think they should get shot in the head.

    The men were experiencing stress and didn’t know what they were doing there. They were to do what they were supposed to and then leave but they were just sitting there for long periods of time. So Rat kiley killed the baby water buffalo. I think he was going crazy from sitting there and not doing anything and not knowing if he was going to die. But the other guys were in shock because of what they just saw and didn’t know what to do or what to say. The men had to hear people getting killed and when their friend died they were mad and upset. So they killed the baby buffalo, which was what Rat did to take out his anger and everything else he was going though. The men had to know that if they were in the line of fire that they would have to fire back and might kill someone and that could mess someone up knowing they killed someone.

    People tell stories so their kids and other people know what went on back in the war. People tell about what happened and how they feel about what happened to them in the war. Sometimes people can tell a story but they lie about some stuff to make the story sound better or to make people think they are a hero but they aren’t. That’s why people tell war stories or stories in general. Not all war stories are good because a lot of people died in the war. So a lot of people would come home and be all messed up or not be able to live life like they used to.

    It takes a lot to kill somebody. It takes more to kill someone that is young and could be your son’s age. The killing of the baby water buffalo and the killing of the kid were the same because they were both young and didn’t get the chance to grow up. The killing of a kid and a man are two different things because a kid is helpless and a man can defend himself. Plain and simple, war is hell and not a place for men to go. They end up doing things that they regret and not knowing how to deal with it.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

  6. chevyman0828

    The meaning of death to me is that death is when you are laying 6 feet under the ground. Death is final. Once you die you don’t get another chance, you are just dead. Once you die, there is no more hanging out with friends or seeing your family or seeing the people you love. When someone close to you dies, you realize that you need to spend more time with the ones that you still have left. Death can be unexpected so spend all the time you can spend with everyone you love. If you lose someone you love then death is extremely painful.
    The men were experiencing fear of death, injury and embarrassment. They feared embarrassment because if they didn’t do what they were supposed to do people might make fun of them. They were angry because they got drafted into the war when some of them probably did not want to go but they were forced to do it. If they didn’t go to war they would have to do jail time. Some people left the country and went to Canada so they didn’t have to go. If you fled to Canada the government could not do anything about it, you were a free person. The men were experiencing the fear of dying and not being able to see their families again or their friends. They feared injury. They did not want their arms or legs blown off because they wouldn’t be able to do things that they liked to do before the war.
    The point of telling a war story is so that people can know what is going on. People need to know what is going on so they aren’t clueless about what is happening. They can talk to people that want to go into the service so they know that it is not a joke and that it is very serious. Sometimes people tell war stories so they can get all their emotions out of their system. Also, people tell war stories so people can understand what war is like. War games are created so that people can feel like they are really in the war and also so people can get better and know what to do. You also feel like you’re in the war with movies because they are so realistic. People like watching movies and playing games about war because it is educational and interesting. People also like to see what it is like war is like and games and movies expose that. It is also surprising about what people do to other people in the war like torture and murder.
    Rat Kiley killed the water buffalo because he needed to take his anger out on something because his best friend died that day and he needed to get rid of that stress he had. He tortured it to death and it had a slow painful death. Rat Kiley killed the buffalo and Tim O’Brien killed a child that was between the ages of 13 to 16. They both killed something or someone that now will never get that chance to grow up, both were still very young. Rat Kiley was stressed out because he had watched his best friend die earlier that day. Tim O’Brien killed the Viet cong soldier because he had a gun and was an enemy he had no clue that the man he killed was a child until he walked up to him and realized that he was a young child. It had to have killed him inside.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:48 am

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s