Denial As A Theme Of "In The Lake Of The Woods".

1274 words - 5 pages

The American Heritage Dictionary defines denial as; an unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings. All three of the main phrases of this definition of denial are constantly seen throughout the novel In the Lake of the Woods. "Painful realities, thoughts, or feelings", "refusal to acknowledge", and "defense mechanism" all pertain directly to the main character of the novel, as well as the way the book is written. For this reason, I feel that this definition of denial and the word denial itself perfectly illustrate the theme of Tim O'Brien's novel, "In the Lake of the Woods".The main action takes place near the town of Angle Inlet on the shores of The Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. John Wade and his wife Kathy move to a cabin on the lake shortly after he is handed a landslide loss in a senatorial primary race. In the race, the main character, John Wade, was revealed to have participated in a massacre at the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It was also revealed that Wade later altered his military documents to show that he was never involved in the incident; this is the reason behind the landslide loss. After a week at the remote cabin, Wade's wife, Kathy, and the only boat at the cabin mysteriously disappear. Despite a massive search, no trace of Kathy or the boat is never found. More than a month later, John Wade heads out in a small boat to search for his lost wife and he too is never seen again.Now that we have the main storyline, we can go deeper into the theme of the novel, denial. "Painful realities, thoughts, or feelings". This phrase is directly related to John Wade's experiences from his childhood and The Vietnam War. In his childhood years, John Wade definitely had some "painful realities" to deal with. In my opinion, the original source of Wade's emotional problems stem from his father. John's father was an alcoholic and verbally abusive towards him. A major emotionally traumatic event in John Wade's life happened at the age of 14 when his father committed suicide. This incident coincides with the theme of denial because it evokes painful feelings in John Wade's conscience, and who wouldn't at least want to deny that their father was an alcoholic that committed suicide.John Wade's years in Vietnam also fall under the theme of denial and "painful reality" During his tour of duty in Vietnam, John Wade is in an infantry unit that is ordered to "Kill anything that breathed" in and around the village of My Lai (O'Brien 142). On this mission, Wade's company goes into My Lai and massacres around 500 innocent women, children, and old men. Some of the men who participated in the raping, torturing, and murdering of My Lai were court martialed. During the My Lai massacre, John Wade shot and killed a member of his own platoon along with an old unarmed Vietnamese man. This event played a major role in the Collapse of John Wade and is definitely a "painful reality"...

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