Friday, August 13, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

While reading this chapter, I was reminded of the literary term stream of consciousness. The chapter itself was a continuation of describing the man Tim killed, but this time instead of focusing on the aftermath of the encounter it centered around what happened right before and his reasoning for killing him. As it turns out, the man whom O'Brien killed was a little more innocent than I thought. I was imagining them fighting in some big battle scene and Tim desperately throwing out a grenade to save his own life. In reality, the man was merely passing through on the trail they were guarding and probably would have continued on his way without harm if not for the grenade setback. This chapter is what makes me feel real sympathy for the author. He explained what he was thinking at the time and lets the reader get an idea of how he was really feeling.
"It was entirely automatic. I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy; I did not ponder issues of morality or politics or military duty. I crouched and kept my head low. I tried to swallow whatever was rising from my stomach, which tasted like lemonade, something fruity and sour. I was terrified. There were no thoughts about killing." (page 126)
With this insight, it becomes clear to the reader that he genuinely did not wish death upon the other soldier. He was only doing what he had been trained to do; not allowing himself to stop and contemplate the consequences. As a soldier, he did nothing wrong. As a man, I can completely understand why he still feels guilty. Although it's easy for me to say that he should not feel guilty because he did the right thing, it's a completely different situation to be the person who actually killed the man and wonder for the rest of your life if it was truly the 'right' thing. All I can say is that I'm happy I wasn't in his shoes that day.

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