Fear over Self
“Ambush”; surprise attack on a victim, sometimes used violently. In Tim O’Brien’s story Ambush, we see one of the many experiences the character Lt. Jimmy Cross went through inVietnam. It details how the Lieutenant once a killed a man in an ambush. The title of the story can be perceived in both ha literal and figurative way. Literally, it is “ambush” in the military sense; Lt.Cross threw a grenade at an enemy. Figuratively, it is how the Lieutenant was ambushed by his fear.
Lt. Jimmy Cross constantly felt overwhelmed by the happenings of the war. By the time the platoonreached My Khe, he was already prepared for an ambush; he had the grenades lined up and ready for throwing. He was ready in a military sense, but not mentally and emotionally. He was afraid, and for abrief moment, when he saw the Vietnamese soldier, he was human again. Fear made him forget any morality, politics or military duty, he only thought of his survival. He did not see the soldier as athreat, and he did not intent on killing. “I had already pulled the pin on the grenade.” “I was terrified.” “I had already thrown the grenade before telling myself to throw it.”
Moreover, seeing the wayhe reacted to his fear rises the question “who ambushed who?” “The grenade was to make him go away –just evaporate”, Lt. Cross was not aiming when he threw the grenade. The soldier seemed at ease,there was no real peril. And yet Lt. Cross threw the grenade. When viewed this way, it seems Cross was the one who ambushed the soldier. But after the grenade was thrown, Cross was wrapped in an internalbattle between his morality and his military duty. After the grenade was thrown, he had wanted to warn the soldier that he was going to die. Lt. Cross felt guilty, and he still felt guilty even afterKiowa tried to convince him that he did the right thing.
“It was not a matter of live or die”, it was the survival instinct triggered by fear. Fear made Lt. Jimmy Cross kill a man. Fear made him...
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