We see Rambo’s agony & we admire his endurance & prowess alike, even as we fear what he is about to do. The story splits in five parts, roughly equal. 1 – The particular circumstances of this conflict, apparently as insoluble as it was avoidable: Rambo is a man of war & those who enforce the civil peace must do away with him before they can give the law the majesty & power it must appear to have. 2 – In nature, Rambo wins: driven out of the city, free of civil restraints, he is unencumbered by popular opinions, but unwilling to become inhuman.
3 – Rambo is hunted like an animal: suddenly the conquest of nature looks plausible & potentially deadly, which mocks the ugliness & destructiveness of nature: we realize how much we love ourselves as human beings in Rambo, because he is pitted against the force of the laws. 4 – The world as if Rambo were dead is like the world before Rambo had become a problem. 5 – Science is revealed as the power behind war, not peace, & the man of war as superior to the man of peace.
In the city, Rambo looks unimpressive. He is not wealthy; nor acquisitive; nor even concerned with anything besides food, clothing, & shelter. Except for that bowie knife… This is what the man of war looks like & this is why the life of peace does not fit him. Much must change before he is fit for civilized life. He is not a barbarian; he did not spring from rock or oak. But the people of the city think he is a barbarian, having never seen the original of that species. Above all, Rambo has no family, so there is nothing connecting him to country & people.
The tragedy starts because Rambo has come home. The war is over, the warriors are dead, civilians have forgotten them – they do not even hate them anymore. Rambo has come to ask for his burial & for theirs. He speaks for a race mostly extinct; but his silence is not only necessary in the circumstances, it is also typical of his race. What evil things befall men must be repaired – made good – or justified. But Rambo can have no vengeance, because no citizen committed a crime against him.
What is worse, Rambo can have no good. The city will not reward him. What can he do? The only reason he is not a barbarian is that he was born in the city, though for war. He cannot doubt the city that sent him to war. He cannot think himself a barbarian, because he saw & fought the barbarians in the war.