What made Tim O'Brien throw the grenade that killed the young man on the trail?
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O'Brien killed the man because he was afraid.... he threw the grenade without thought. It was instinctual.
I was afraid of him—afraid of something—and as he passed me on the trail I threw a grenade that exploded at his feet and killed him.
It was entirely automatic. I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy; I did not ponder issues of morality or politics or military duty. I crouched and kept my head low. I tried to swallow whatever was rising from my stomach, which tasted like lemonade, something fruity and sour. I was terrified. There were no thoughts about killing. The grenade was to make him go away—just evaporate—and I leaned back and felt my mind go empty and then felt it fill up again. I had already thrown the grenade before telling myself to throw it.
The Things They Carried