Tim O Brien On The Rainy River Analysis

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The short story “On the Rainy River”, by Tim O’Brien is an exploration of how guilt and the pressures of society can shape one’s decision making. O’Brien feels guilty about going to war in Vietnam which contradicts his principles and his dream of becoming a writer. In the story, O’Brien admits, “I was a coward, I went to war” (O’Brien 80); he feared how the people of his community, and the rest of society would view him if he ran away. He feared the external embarrassment he would face if he dodged his draft notice instead of serving in the war; the fear of being judged by society was too unbearable for him to face. During O’Brien’s encounter with Elroy Berdahl, he is influenced to adhere to a decision, however, he chose to conform to the expectations of society. The presented motifs of cowardice, shame, and guilt all stem from O’Brien’s disoriented belief in pleasing society and abandoning his identity.…show more content…
However, in turn this causes O’Brien to view himself as a coward in his own eyes as he conforms to society and goes to war. We can identify from O’Brien’s experience that you cannot please everyone, due to the tendency it has on leading people to their own resentment. This alludes to the idea that every human being will have their own judgments and opinions regardless of what you say or think. So basing motives and actions on the expectations of society, may result in a disservice to oneself. Throughout the length of the story, O’Brien relentlessly takes into consideration the external influences rather than his own promises. On a scale, he weighs society more heavily than
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