The Man I Killed

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Man I Killed” by Tim O’Brien. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Man I Killed” (1990)
Author: Tim O’Brien
Genre: Short story

Tim O’Brien is an American author. His most famous literary work is “The Things They Carried”, a collection of short stories based on O’Brien’s experience as a soldier in the Vietnam War. The short story "The Man I Killed" is part of this collection.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:

Effects of trauma

The social setting also focuses on trauma and on the mental effects war has on soldiers. In Tim’s case, his trauma is triggered by him killing the young man. Consequently, Tim becomes obsessed with the event and, while staring at the dead man’s body, he engages in self-torture by imagining the life of the man he has killed. Tim is aware of the fact that he has caused the death of an individual who had a life of his own and people who would miss him, and he is unable to make peace with that. Tim’s trauma is suggested by his obsession with staring at the dead man’s body and his inability to respond to Kiowa. His detailed and almost detached description of the dead body also suggests shock. His trauma is also hinted by the fact that his mind seems to be going in circles, as the description of the body from the beginning is also repeated at the end.


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The Man I Killed

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