Rat Kiley In The Things They Carried

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You are introduced to many characters throughout the story who deal with their own personal struggles and internal conflicts. From heavy substance abuse to moral convictions about the war and the meaning of why they’re fighting, every soldier is unique in their own struggle on the inside. However, there is one character who sticks out to the audience and his name is Rat Kiley.

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Rat seems like a pretty normal person compared to the rest of the characters until he witnesses a life changing event altering his sanity indefinitely. He witnesses his best friend curt lemon die and this sparks a change in him, a change for the worst. Soldiers that witness gruesome and tragic moments of loss during the war are mentally affected beyond point of repair.

Rat starts off in the book as a normal man who has good morals and helps people. His duty is a medic, so he courageously saves others’ lives to the best of his ability. He even goes as far as to carry around M&Ms for especially bad wounds (O’Brien). Rats story can be summed up to this quote from a literary analysis, The Vietnam War is so bad that even a kind-hearted, level-headed platoon medic named Rat Kiley eventually succumbs to the stress of war, after his best friend Curt Lemon is blown up into pieces onto a tree by a rigged 105 mm artillery shell. After mercilessly torturing and killing a baby buffalo with his rifle and seeing many more body bags, Rat Kiley finally mutilates himself to get out of war, “‘This whole war,’ (Noor-Tehrani).

Curt lemons death is what began Rats downward spiral out of control. Witnessing your best friend being killed will obviously shake anyone up, however it is different with Rat Kiley because he gives the biggest reaction. This event produces the question, why was Rat the only one who couldn’t deal with Curt’s death or at least keep his sanity after his death. Everyone had dealt with a loss but what makes Rat so special? Why did Rat literally go insane because of it?

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