Throughout when his friend Kiowa dies. Kiowa’s

Throughout one’s life, there are many obstacles that may occur, which can cause an individual to change and become a new person. Norman Bowker and Rat Riley, two characters from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, enter the war with a sense of duty, however the impact of war causes them to transform after seeing the devastation of battle when failing to fulfill their responsibilities as soldiers, ultimately leading to a discovery of their true selves. Norman Bowker, a fearless solider determined to protect his fellow combats, confronts his downfall as he holds himself accountable for the death of his friend, Kiowa. Additionally, Rat Kiley, a youthful medic who is driven to rescue his friends, is left with the sin of the death of his best friend, when failing to achieve the profession of a medic. Ultimately, the fatal actions of war causes these two men to change drastically, leading them to turn to self-harm.
Norman Bowker, a strong courageous solider, who is committed to protect his fellow combats, is drawn to his breaking point when his friend Kiowa dies during battle. Norman Bowker enters war with a sense  of duty and that he will be a great asset to the war. Bowker’s father, a war veteran, pressures him into going to the battlefield and to receive many awards for his outstanding work. His idea of war and a hero changes when his friend Kiowa dies. Kiowa’s death is heartbreaking as he falls into a pile of muck and gets stuck in it. Bowker tries to help him, but the smell of the waste gets to him and he lets go. Booker believes that it is his duty to  protect his fellow combats, and he fails to do so. After the death of Kiowa, Norman could not get it out of his mind, he is constantly remembering Kiowa’s voice screaming for help. All he feels is guilt, he had one job to do and he fails at it, which causes him to go crazy and rethink of why he came to war. He came in as a courageous solider, however he did not act as the solider he wanted to be. Norman says to himself, “It was not a war for war stories, nor for talk of valor, and nobody in town wanted to know about the terrible stink”(O’Brien 143). After returning back home, he feels a detachment from the society. He does not know how to get back to his normal life and adjust to the society. Norman isolates himself because he assumes that no one wants to hear his story and what he goes through. Coming back home, people want to hear about all the good deeds soldiers do, not how they saw a fellow soldier die right infant of them and did nothing about it.While in war, he keeps a diary and writes his experiences as well as emotions. However, back at home Bowker is unable to share his feelings and adventures as he believes no one wants to hear them and thus becomes completely isolated from society. Norman says to himself “That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of snack down into the stage with him…Feels like I’m still in deep shit”(150). When Kiowa dies, Norman dies with him, unable to live with that burden, he has no desire to do anything anymore. On forth of July, he gets his father’s Chevy and circles around the lake seven times which reminds him of the memories of war. These memories are a constant reminder that there is no escape from the war in which he will be forever trapped in the war mentally. All of Norman’s thoughts are drowning him and he is unable to find a way out of them.The guilt of letting Kiowa die and saving himself is a burden that he is unable to live with. So,  five years later Norman Bowker kills himself in a YMCA locker room. The death of Norman Bowker symbolizes how war can really affect someone for the rest of their lives. Living for  Norman is not an option anymore as he is so consumed with guilt that he cannot find meaning in life anymore. Going into war, he holds this sense of duty however, with the traumatic experience of his friend dying, he is not able to recover from and ultimately takes his own life.
Along with Norman Bowker’s transition, Rat Kiley, a youthful medic is driven to take drastic actions after failing to fulfill his job as a medic. Kiley brings a comic book with him into war which resembles how he wants to be a superhero.”Rats” are known for carrying diseases, but it is ironic since his name his Rat and he is the medic who treats his fellow soldiers. One day, Rat Kiley and Curt Lemon are playing with a bomb, representing how they are playing with life and death as in a split moment either one of them can die. When Curt Lemon dies, Rat Kiley takes full responsibility because he feels that if he was not playing with the bomb, he would have never died. The day Lemon dies, the platoon see a baby buffalo where Kiley offers food but the buffalo rejects Kiley by not eating it. Kiley begins to shoot at the buffalo in which “It wasn’t to kill, it was to hurt”(75). His goal is to inflict pain on purpose as it symbolizes that Kiley’s innocence is gone. When the buffalo does not eat, it symbolizes another person that he cannot save. The baby buffalo is a representation of Rat Kiley himself. Every shot is more destruction that he cannot stabilize from. Every moment of the war is another moment that breaks Kiley even further. Kiley does not know how to react to the death of his friend and therefore acts in the fashion. He lives with the guilt of his best friend dying and loathes himself for it because he is the medic and thus, believes that he is the one to take care of his soldiers. Kiley feels very out of control and it is his imagination is what leads to his downfall. Kiley, as a person, completely begins to change and the other soldiers notice.  “At first Rat just sank inside himself, not saying a word… Rat Kiley finally hit a wall”(210).  The emotion he is keeping inside finally bottles up to  the point that causes him to go insane. He starts having dreams and hallucinating where he cannot escape death. War disassociates himself from his fellow soldiers because he looses his humanity. Which these dreams sees body parts which shows that he is losing the ability to see people as humans. Rat Kiley does not see himself as a human anymore he views himself as a object for bugs. The imagination that saves him is the same imagination that takes over his mind leading to his downfall. As a medic he is the hero that can save others, but he cannot save himself. Thus, he ends up shooting himself in the foot to gain control back, sacrificing a piece of his body for the greater good. He needs to be cared for, but he is the one that cares for others too much, and thus he turns to self-harm to relieve his suffering. 
Norman Bowker and Rat Kiley, two characters from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, enter war with a sense of duty, however are pushed to take harsh actions when failing to impose there responsibilities as soldiers, leading to a finding of them selves. Norman Bowker, a courageous solider unable to protect his fellow combat is brought to his destruction with the death of his friend Kiowa. Rat Kiley, a vibrant medic encounters a silence in his job, when holding himself responsible for the death of his best friend.  One’s life should not be taken for granted because one action can cause that person their life and cause them to live with life long scars. 


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