On The Rainy River Essay

1103 words - 4 pages

Life can bring unexpected events that individuals might not be prepared to confront. This was the case of O’Brien in the story, “On the Rainy River” from the book The Things They Carried. As an author and character O’Brien describes his experiences about the Vietnam War. In the story, he faces the conflict of whether he should or should not go to war after being drafted. He could not imagine how tough fighting must be, without knowing how to fight, and the reason for such a war. In addition, O’Brien is terrified of the idea of leaving his family, friends and everything he loves behind. He decides to run away from his responsibility with the society. However, a feeling of shame and embarrassment makes him go to war. O’Brien considers himself a coward for doing something he does not agree with; on the other hand, thinking about the outcome of his decision makes him a brave man. Therefore, an individual that considers the consequences of his acts is nobler than a war hero.
The Vietnam War was a conflict that many people did not comprehend. In fact, the war was atrocious and bloody. According to The Vietnam War: a History in Documents, 58,000 US soldier died and more than 700,000 came back with physical and emotional marks (Young, Fitzgerald & Grunfeld 147). For many Americans this war was meaningless. In the same way, O’Brien admits, “American war in Vietnam seemed to me wrong; certain blood was being shed for uncertain reason” (40). O’Brien believes the war was not significance. Furthermore, the lack of logic in the matter makes him confused about going to war. That’s why, he does not understand why he was sent to fight a war for which causes and effects were uncertain. The author continues by saying, “I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate, too everything…I was not a soldier” (41). O’Brien thought about his educational accomplishments and his anti-war beliefs. He assumed, well educated people should not have been sent to war to fight for something they do not agree with. In fact, he believes that only those who agree with the Vietnam War should be the ones forming the military lines.
After being drafted, several thoughts came to his mind. O’ Brien thought about how his life will be if he goes to war. He states, “I imagined myself dead. I imagined myself doing things I could not do- charging and enemy position, taking aim at another human being” (44). It seems that O’Brien thought about his principles and morals as a human being. He believes killing innocent people was not a heroic act; it was an act of shame. On the other hand, he clarifies that not all wars are negative, “There were occasions, when a nation was justified in using military force to achieve it ends” (44). He considered to fight only in the cases were war is necessary to achieve a significant purpose. O’Brien uses examples of Hitler, referring him as an evil and one of the reasons he would have validated a war, and even joined the military if...

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