Character analysis of Rat Kiley

Topics: Emotion, Vietnam War, Kill Pages: 3 (1180 words) Published: March 6, 2014


Character Analysis of Rat Kiley
Fear, death, and depression. These are all weights that can burden one throughout life. Tim O’Brien’s war stories often speak of emotional baggage by describing the person carrying them rather than the burdens themselves. In novel The Things They Carried, the author Tim O’Brien uses the character of Rat Kiley to better illustrate the emotional burdens that the soldiers in the Vietnam War faced. Rat was the platoon’s medic until he went crazy with fear and paranoia. He is very complex, especially when compared to the simple, brute men like Azar, Strunk or Jensen. Rat cares for everyone, not only when they are injured, but also when they are dead. He does this by sending letters to the family of the soldier, hoping to get a response and very rarely receiving one. The fact that he continues these efforts that are rarely noticed shows that he is a very caring character. His good-hearted spirit is also shown by his attempts to control his anger and emotions. This kind and hospitable mentality causes the audience to be put in a stage of shock when he goes crazy. The reader just doesn’t expect the “nice guy” to have horrific things to happen to him. It also expresses that anyone can break, even if he doesn’t deserve it. Rat Kiley is very different from most of the characters and his personality often clashes with the men in platoon. He is not like Azar who is immature and racist. Instead he is kind to all the men, even the ones that don’t like him. Nevertheless, his emotions do get the better of him; but rather than embracing hate and anger, he fights these feelings. He battles them to the brink of insanity. This instability is shown when he kills a baby water buffalo. He doesn’t kill the beast because it was dangerous or injured, but because he felt so much emotion and pain after the death of his best friend Curt Lemon. Tim O’Brien writes of this saying, “He shot off the tail. He shot away chunks of meat below the ribs” (O’Brien...
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