Summary Of On The Rainy River 'By Tim O' Brien

648 Words3 Pages

Fear can strongly influence a person’s life as it causes an inner crisis and forces them to alter decisions despite their morals. On the Rainy River, by Tim O’Brien, recounted one such moral conflict through the narrator’s journey to the Rainy River. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War as it was wrong, but worried about embarrassing himself in his town. His guilt became hatred toward townspeople as he did not understand his inner conflicts. He travelled to the Rainy River to leave America but could not because of his fear. Therefore, through the story, O’Brien showed that even a person with good intentions may be forced to change their values in the fear of humiliation in society. Since the beginning, the narrator spoke of his constant …show more content…

He described his emotions as he thought about going to Canada to escape the war, “…the fear spreading inside me like weeds…It was a kind of schizophrenia. A moral split…I feared the war, yes, but I also feared exile…losing the respect…everything that mattered to me.” (O’Brien). He could not ignore his human nature of trying to conform to societal expectations for which he blamed his town. Thus, readers may interpret this as the narrator’s defense mechanism to avoid feeling guilty for not wanting to fight. He described his hatred as such, “I detested their blind, thoughtless…acquiescence to it all, their simple-minded patriotism…I held them responsible.” (O’Brien). However, he was blinded by his own hatred to understand his true feelings of fear and was not aware of his weakness until he faced the decision of fleeing the …show more content…

Although he felt determined to escape, the thought of leaving America tormented him as he said, “At night I’d toss around in bed…half-awake, half-dreaming…paddling my way toward Canada…Getting chased by the Border Patrol…” (O’Brien). Moreover, it was evident that he was fearful of facing the consequences. Once the narrator passed across Canadian borders with Elroy, the innkeeper, he was overwhelmed by the impending decision of leaving the country that he could not move. He realized, “Right then…I understood that I would not do what I should do…I would not be brave…” (O’Brien). The decision to stay was significant because it emphasized the huge impact that fear has on the noblest pursuits. Thus, his submission to societal standards of serving in the army out of patriotism effectively showed that fear of mortification was powerful in changing

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