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Transcript of Ambush
What happened to the narrator outside My Khe?
By Tim O'brien
What vision does the narrator sometimes see in his mind?
the narrator experiences in this story. How would you describe the way he resolves or tries to resolve them? Explain your answer.
What does the
contribute to the impact of this story? Consider what would be lost without the first and last paragraphs.
In what ways does the title “Ambush” relate to the events of the story? Think about the frame as well as the inner story.
“Ambush” is a work of fiction, but the story reads like a nonfiction account of a true event. To readers who wonder how much of his work is actually true, O’Brien responds, “The literal truth is… irrelevant.” Do you agree? Does it matter that O’Brien, the writer does not have a daughter and does not know whether he ever killed anyone?
Evaluate a Character's Actions
Kiowa tells the narrator that this “was a good kill.” Do you agree? In your opinion, can there be a “good kill”?
What does this story suggest about the effects of the
on the present?
The narrator said, "Of course not" (O'Brien 1138)
The narrator was on the final watch outside My Khe. He set up a row of grenades with the purpose of protecting himself, as a Vietnamese man began to approach him. The narrator detonated the grenade, which killed the man immediately.
The narrator often sees the young man walking towards him through the morning fog. At times, the man even smiles at O'Brien.
Seeing the grenade, the narrator has a tendency to act with urgency due to his past experiences in the war. The young man did no wrong to the narrator, but he felt as if he needed to protect himself.
The narrator resolves his internal conflict by justifying his reasons for his actions and attempting to reassure himself.
The first paragraph creates an explanation for the reader as to why the author is telling this story. Although he believes his daughter isn't ready to understand the situation, the author feels the need to continue sharing his war experiences. In reality, his "daughter" is representing society and how they do not understand veterans and war. This is an attempt to open perspectives of society through the use of an innocent child.
The story that is told through the author is about his "ambush". However, there are two sides to this ambush. The obvious perspective is that the Vietnamese man was ambushed by O'Brien while he was walking through the woods. Although an ambush is a surprise attack on someone, it may also have been an ambush to O'Brien- a surpise in seeing this Vietnamese man that would have done no harm, and killing him, This sharp and short memory becomes a repeating video to O'Brien, and haunts him for the rest of his life.
Kiowa's statement of the narrator having a "good kill" is agreeable due to the fact that the narrator killed an enemy that he was fighting against in the war, and because he killed the man to protect himself. For these reasons, it is possible to have a good kill.
The past never escapes the present, it continues to haunt people's thoughts while keeping them aware of critical decisions that have been made previously
Compare “Ambush” and “Why Soldiers Won't Talk” (Page 1116) as portrayals of a soldier's experience. On a chart, note what each presents as the physical sensations and emotional aftereffects of the war. Which piece- The story or the essay-had more impact on you? Why?
O’Brien felt anxiety and was tense while he was on watch. Yet at the same time he felt lost. This was due to just waking up and still being fatigued. After killing the man, he experienced feelings of regret.
O’Brien still does not forgive himself for this young mans death. He feels an immense amount of remorse and even wishes he did not throw the grenade. This past decision continues to haunt him in his dreams or in daily parts of life.
“Why Soldiers Won’t Talk”
The soldiers are overloaded with both adrenaline and fatigue. They are overcome with hunger and a surreal view of their surroundings. They are run down as well.
Real war events become blurred and almost dream like. Their memory of these events slowly fades and they forget more details every day. All the memories become vague until they cannot recall true events.
“Why Soldiers Won’t Talk” had a greater impact on the reader than “Ambush” due to its vivid descriptions and realistic accounts. In Ambush, the details were very vague and faded it was even arguably hard to follow. While in Why Soldiers Won’t Talk, Steinbeck went into immense detail describing every aspect of war in incredible details. It was even captivating as it was filled with irony. The story said that it is extremely hard to remember details and everything can be faded, however, the story is filled with details and very clear image.
The writer’s portrayal of his “daughter” represents society and how it feels towards the war, because of this, it does not matter that he doesn’t actually have a daughter. Whether or not the author knows if he has ever killed someone matters due to the extreme impact he could possibly have made on someone's life.
What does the narrator tell his daughter when she asks if he ever killed someone?