How does the structure of Tim O’Brien’s story “Ambush” relate to its title?

A. The narrator’s present life cannot escape the bombardment of his wartime memories and actions.

B. The narrator’s war experiences are in the distant past and no longer influence the present.

C. The narrator’s platoon was surrounded by the enemy, similar to the way the narrator feels when he is surrounded by his family.

D. The narrator continues to write war stories, but he is unable to talk about his wartime experiences.

E. The narrator feels his daughter and the young enemy continually cause him to face his past.

The answer is C: The narrator’s platoon was surrounded by the enemy, similar to the way the narrator feels when he is surrounded by his family.

The authors talk about the flashbacks to make readers understand the relationship between the title “Ambush” and the story. The soldiers often ended up remembering the memory from the past and suddenly catch them off-guard. The flashback ends up taking most of the story.

About the author Tim O’Brien

Tim O’Brien was born in Austin Minnesota and later moved to Worthington located on Lake Okabena. This town has influenced a lot of his stories. After graduating from college, he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam.

His first book was a memoir “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home” which was about his war experiences. He believed that the war was wrong and protested against it, but still, he went to war saying that he did it for the love of his family, and so that he didn’t have to disappoint the townsfolk.

The author felt that his town was ignorant of the things that happened in a war and the town sent him to the war without feeling the reality of it. Tim was inclined towards goodness, good actions and kind words as can be seen through his writing.

The author’s work reflects verisimilitude and details of the event that he encountered. His writing style is unique for the explicit, conscious and meta-fictional approach that blurs the distinction between fiction and fact.

Summary of Tim O’Brien’s story “Ambush”

Two decades after the war, the author’s daughter asks him if he had ever killed any person and he cannot help himself by writing about wars. The author insists that he hasn’t killed anyone but is aware that he is lying.

Reflecting on it, he hopes that she will ask the same thing again someday and he will be able to tell her the truth.

He remembers his time in the military when he was at an ambush site outside My Khe. O’Brien and his partner Kiowa were keeping awake alternatively in the middle of the night. When dawn was breaking, O’Brien saw a young man with leather sandals and an ammunition belt walk through the fog on the trail.

He had grenades lined up near him, and he could feel nervousness and anxiety when he saw the enemy soldier. Without thinking, without telling himself what to do, he pulled the pin from the grenade and lobbed it at the man. The moment he does that, the reality of his actions come crashing, and he is frozen at the moment with the grenade in the air.

The grenade bounced on the trail, and the man started to run. He tried to cover his head – an act that made O’Brien realize that the man was going to die. The grenade erupts, and the man’s sandals are blown off, killing him.

O’Brien feels guilt that crushes him because his life was not in danger when he threw the grenade. Had he not pulled the pin from the grenade the man would have lived. The man hadn’t attacked him, and he killed him, although an enemy soldier, for just passing by on a trail.

His partner, Kiowa tries to ease his guilt by telling him that the man would have anyway died. But the author is not at ease after that, all that mattered was he had snuffed out life without any threat of peril. The author still thinks back and is at times able to forgive himself and sometimes he isn’t.

He clearly remembers the man, often while performing mundane daily tasks, a man coming out of the fog, walking towards him, passing him and then turning back to share a secret smile and then walking ahead again.

Analysis of the Story “Ambush”

The story “Ambush” by Tim O’Brien has multiple themes attached to it. It depicts how people can struggle with decisions, and it doesn’t matter if they were correct or not, it leaves a mark in the memory.

The author’s writing is a confessional where he expresses guilt for killing a man while reinforcing his opposition to the war.

The author recounts the story from his memory. He remembers the lobbying of the grenade which froze in a moment for him. It depicts that he had regretted the act even before the bomb went off.

He also hints that the actions of the men in Vietnam may not have been voluntary when he described the man’s body being jerked by invisible threads before he died. They were propelled by powerful guilt, responsibility, impulse and regret.

Very evident is the author’s regret throughout the story. He highlights that he wanted the man to disappear, not die. Often actions in a war can be automatic and thoughtless, just like it was for the author when he threw the grenade.

He was in a place of fear, and there were no moral questions in his mind that made him stop and think.

Kiowa’s statement that the kill was “good” shows the blurring of lines between bad and good, in a war, but O’Brien’s guilt outweighs Kiowa’s assurance. He reimagines that time again and again and, in his imagination, he never threw the grenade and the soldier lived.

The author’s feelings are contradictory about the incident, just like the war, when he can sometimes forgive himself and sometimes he can’t.


The story ambush is an emotional tale of regret and sorrow, that shows how soldiers get caught off-guard by the memories, and they are forced to remember the bygone days.


  1. Summary of Ambush by Tim-o’-Brien Retrieved from
  2. About the author Tim O’ Brien: Retrieved from
  3. Story and title analysis: Taken from


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