K. Phil Klay, “Prayer in the Furnace”

Phil Klay is a former Marine and Iraq veteran.

The story: A Marine chaplain, confronted by a tormented infantryman in his unit, grapples with his complicity in war violence and ability to aid the fighting men most touched by it.

Characters: A Marine Chaplain named “Jeffrey” (first-person narrator), a Marine infantryman named Rodriguez

Themes: Soldier motivation, war’s violence, war guilt

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does Rodriguez seek out the Chaplain?
  2. Does the Chaplain think he has helped Rodriguez in any way? What has he learned from his relationship with him?
  3. Does the story suggest that religious faith helps us better understand the violence of war?

For further exploration, watch this video of Phil Klay discussing his Catholic faith:

Read “Prayer in the Furnace” here:




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