Friday, October 1, 2010

Summary vs. Analysis

Tim O’Brien’s short story, “On The Rainy River,” occurred during the summer of 1868.  In the beginning of the story O’Brien says he has never told anyone this story before.  One month after Tim O’Brien graduates at Macalester College, he receives his draft notice on June 17, 1968 to fight in the Vietnam War.  O’Brien was now drafted into fighting a war, without the knowledge as to why.  The young O’Brien took a modest stand against the war.  He felt as though he was better than to fight the war.  O’Brien states that he is, “too smart, too compassionate, too everything.  It couldn’t happen.  I was above it” (O’Brien 41).  As O’Brien goes on in his story, he tells us that he believes his life is just aimlessly “collapsing towards slaughter” (O’Brien 43).  While in mid-July he begins thinking about making one of the hardest decisions of his life.  Fleeing for Canada and walking away from everyone, and everything he knew.  He worries about what the consequences of his action could bring him.  He would lose the respect of his family and community.  O’Brien ultimately decides to head straight west along the Rainy River, which separates Minnesota from Canada, or in O’Brien’s case, one life from another.  On his journey O’Brien pulls into an old fishing resort called the Tip Top Lodge.  At the lodge he meets an old man named, Elroy Berdahl, who changes his life forever.
In the story, “On The Rainy River,” develops the theme of guilt that Tim O’Brien feels, while opposing to fight in the war.  He goes back and forth throughout the story, examining what his true reasoning was for leaving.  O’Brien shows us the different struggles not only he had to make, but the idea that other soldiers like him had to make the same moral decision to fight or run.  O’Brien’s guilt starts to take a toll on him, as he starts to think to himself more and more about his decision.  Does he choose to live and let live, or does he choose to fight, but knowing the fight is for something he does not believe in.  O’Brien shows us his true feelings about the war, and the moral believes he has for the opposition of fighting.  O’Brien tries to ask us questions to make us all see the difficult decision he has to make.  “What would you do?   Would you feel pity for yourself?  Would you think about your family and your childhood and your dreams and all you’re leaving behind?  Would you feel like dying?  Would you cry, as I did?” (O’Brien 57).  O’Brien allows us, the reader, to make our own opinion as to what made him decide to leave.  O’Brien finally decided he needed to go back home and fight.  O’Brien states, “I survived, but it’s not a happy ending.  I was a coward.  I went to the war” (O’Brien 61).  O’Brien reveals to all of us how a young man, turned Vietnam soldier, makes one of the hardest decisions any of us might ever have to make.

O’Brien, Tim. (1990). The Things They Carried. First Mariner Books, 2009. New York. Print.

Here is a poem that I really enjoyed reading called, "Soldiers," by Stevie Sch:

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