Lee strunk another member of the company dies from

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Lee Strunk, another member of the company, dies from injuries he sustains bystepping on a landmine. In “Friends,” O’Brien remembers that before Strunk wasfatally hurt, Strunk and Dave Jensen had made a pact that if either man wereirreparably harmed, the other man would see that he was quickly killed. However,when Strunk is actually hurt, he begs Jensen to spare him, and Jensen complies.Instead of being upset by the news of his friend’s swift death en route totreatment, Jensen is relieved.The death that receives the most attention inThe Things They Carriedis that ofKiowa, a much-loved member of the Alpha Company and one of O’Brien’s closestfriends. In “Speaking of Courage,” the story of Kiowa’s death is relayed inretrospect through the memory of Norman Bowker, years after the war. AsBowker drives around a lake in his Iowa hometown, he thinks that he failed tosave Kiowa, who was killed when a mortar round hit and caused him to sinkheadfirst into a marshy field. O’Brien realizes that he has dealt with his guilt overKiowa’s death differently than Norman Bowker in “Notes.” Just before the end ofthe war, O’Brien receives a long letter from Bowker that says he hasn’t found away to make life meaningful after the war. O’Brien resolves to tell Bowker’s story,and the story of Kiowa’s death, in order to negotiate his own feelings of guilt andhollowness.Like “Love” and “Notes,” several of O’Brien’s stories are told from a perspectivetwenty years after the Vietnam War, when he is a forty-three-year-old writer living
in Massachusetts. Exposure to the guilt of old friends like Jimmy Cross andNorman Bowker prompts him to write stories in order to understand what theywere going through. But two stories, “The Man I Killed” and “Ambush,” are writtenso that O’Brien can confront his own guilt over killing a man with a grenadeoutside the village of My Khe. In “The Man I Killed,” O’Brien imagines the life ofhis victim, from his childhood to the way things would have turned out for himhad O’Brien not spotted him on a path and thrown a grenade at his feet. In“Ambush,” O’Brien imagines how he might relay the story of the man he killed tohis nine-year-old daughter, Kathleen. In this second story, O’Brien provides moredetails of the actual killing—including the sound of the grenade and his ownfeelings—and explains that even well after the fact, he hasn’t finished sorting outthe experience.In the last story, “The Lives of the Dead,” O’Brien gives another twist to hiscontention that stories have the power to save people. In the stories of CurtLemon and Kiowa, O’Brien explains that his imagination allowed him to grapplesuccessfully with his guilt and confusion over the death of his fourth-grade firstlove, Linda.

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