Readers, especially those reading historical fiction, always crave to find believable stories and realistic characters. Tim O’Brien gives them this in “The Things They Carried.” Like war, people and their stories are often complex. This novel is a collection stories that include these complex characters and their in depth stories, both of which are essential when telling stories of the Vietnam War. Using techniques common to postmodern writers, literary techniques, and a collection of emotional truths, O’Brien helps readers understand a wide perspective from the war, which ultimately makes the fictional stories he tells more believable.
In the short story “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien, the main character Tim O’Brien gets a letter notifying him that he has been selected for the draft; he is affected by this emotionally, physically, and he faces a moral dilemma because this war goes against what he believes in. Immediately upon receiving the letter O’Brien thinks, “I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate, too everything. It couldn’t happen. I was above it” (1003).
Regret is a powerful emotion that has the ability to scar someone for the rest of their life. Moments of regret can come from relationships, self-made decisions and life changing events. The idea of regret also applies to “A Marker on the Side of the Boat” by Bao Ninh and “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien. Although these two literary pieces are very different in many ways, both authors describe the experience of the Vietnam War as a time of regretful decisions that negatively impacted people of both the American side and the Vietnamese side. Both authors tell a story about a character that recalls of flashbacks of the war, where they grieve over the past decisions that have affected them for the rest of their life.
Answering the call to serve causes enough moral conflict and killing for the war only adds to it. Tim O’Brien struggles to make sense of his thoughts after killing a Vietnamese man while outside of My Khe. O’Brien writes “The Man I Killed” detailing how the man’s disfigured appearance looks repetitively, and dreaming about what the man’s life must of been like before his death. Afterwards O’Brien reflects saying, “It was entirely automatic. I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy…”
O’Brien creates this backstory for this boy. How he grew up listening to stories of his ancestors protecting their land and that it was a tradition to die fighting for your own land. But O’Brien could see that this boy was weak and tiny and young. He could see that his face was smooth with no facial hair and fingers were thin. This brought so much more guilt onto him.
This is evident when Mr. O’Brien says, “I would go to the war – I would kill and maybe die – because I was embarrassed not to,” (pg. 57.) In the end the author realized what he must do and went back home, so he could fight in the Vietnam
‘’I was a coward. I went to the war’’ Pg187. In the short story, ‘’On The Rainy River’’ by Tim O’Brien, The protagonist faces a difficult life decision, he did not want to conform to society the way others wanted him to. He wanted to keep his personal beliefs. Tim O’Brien does not want to conform no matter how vital it is that he should.
Reader Response of “On the Rainy River” The short story “On the Rainy River” by Tim O 'Brien explains to the audience that all men are influenced to go into war, and that they should hide the fears and emotions that they may have along the journey. Throughout the short story the author explains his journey and opens up about his emotions when he was sent to war. Being the audience of this short story explains to you what every man must go through if they were to be sent to war.
On the Rainy River is a story about a man, Tim O’Brien, who struggles with a life altering decision. He evaluated his own personal convictions regarding the Vietnam War at an isolated fishing lodge by the Canadian border. Three different forms of isolation are present in this story. These include physical, emotional, and societal isolation – all of which had an effect on how Tim dealt his conflicting emotions. Physical isolation played a prominent role in Tim O’Brien’s final decision to go to war.
In Tim O'Brien's “Enemies” and “Friends”, O'Brien shows the effect the nature of war has on individuals and how war destroys and creates friendships. These two stories describe the relationship between two soldiers, Lee Strunk and Dave Jensen. In “Enemies”, friendship is broken over a fist fight about a stolen jackknife, which leaves Strunk with a broken nose and Jensen paranoid of whether or not Strunk’s revenge is coming. While in “Friends”, you see how the nature of war creates a bond of trust, even between people who first saw each other as enemies.
How does a person’s response to and perspective of a crisis define him or her? In the event of a crisis, a person’s response and perspective of it can define him or her. In the novel, The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, and the short story, “On the Rainy River”, written by Tim O’Brien, the characters experience crisis all around them. Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief and Tim O’Brien in “On the Rainy River” have a hard time staying true to themselves in moments of crisis.
He fought a war in Vietnam that he knew nothing about, all he knew was that, “Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons” (38). He realized that he put his life on the line for a war that is surrounded in controversy and questions. Through reading The Things They Carried, it was easy to feel connected to the characters; to feel their sorrow, confusion, and pain. O’Briens ability to make his readers feel as though they are actually there in the war zones with him is a unique ability that not every author possess.
How it was shaped: Tim allowed the draft of the Vietnam war and societal pressures get to the best of him and he slowly tore himself apart, he started off as a confident incorrigible man. His morals later then became corrupted, he gave into the pressures, his self proclaimed Lone Ranger status had been infected and debunked by his end decision of serving in the Vietnam war. Thesis: In the story, On the Rainy River, the author, Tim O’Brien demonstrates that an individual allows societal pressures and expectations to override their core values, morals, and beliefs; peer pressure forces individuals to put their beliefs aside so they can fit in with everyone else. The narrator, Tim O’Brien faces a similar situation when he get’s drafted for the Vietnam War.
In the short story, “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien, the author develops the idea that when an individual experiences a feeling of shame and humiliation, they often tend to neglect their desires and convictions to impress society. Tim, the narrator, starts off by describing his feeling of embarrassment, “I’ve had to live with it, feeling the shame”, before even elaborating on the cause of the feeling. Near the end of the story, he admits he does not run off and escape to Canada because it had nothing to do with his, “mortality...Embarrassment, that’s all it was”. The narrator experiences this feeling of intense shame and then he decides that he will be “a coward” and go to war. His personal desire is that he wishes to live a normal life and could never imagine himself charging at an enemy position nor ever taking aim at another human being.
Guilt is an emotion that O’Brien wanted to bluntly throw at the reader because the guilt is something a lot of soldiers faced in and out of war. There are multiple examples of the guilt in this book of all the trauma and all the love,the guilt starts to find its way into the characters. Continuing this, O’Brien runs with the psychological theme of guilt, and he does this masterfully. "They carried shame for almost dodging the draft. The weights they carried couldn’t be left behind and for some of the soldiers in O’Brien’s unit, they carried these intangible weights for more than twenty years after returning home from war"(Clark).