Stylistic Analysis Of Tim O'brien's Writing

1556 words - 6 pages

Tim O'Brien is a highly acclaimed Vietnam War novelist. His depictions of the war are both gruesome and disturbing. O'Brien achieves such reality in his books by drawing material for his novels from his own experience. He uses imagination and fiction to find meaning in those experiences. The passions and ideas in his novels appeal to American readers with broad differences in political allegiance and social background. The novels are intimately personal, psychological, and explanatory. In his books Going After Cacciato and In the Lake of the Woods, Tim O'Brien develops themes such as true courage, loneliness, and psychological effects of the war by using narrative techniques, such as recounting thoughts and emotions of characters, in order to emphasize their fantasies, confusion, and obsessions.In Going After Cacciato, the protagonist Paul Berlin cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. In an attempt to distinguish between illusion and reality, Paul creates a continuous critical dialogue between himself and the world around him. He always fantasizes about his home and his family. And although his platoon succeeds in catching Cacciato near the Laotian border, Berlin continues fantasizing. He imagines that Cacciato constantly manages to evade them, and the platoon must pursue him to Paris. He dreams up grotesque adventures in countries along the route, some hilarious escapades, some adolescent sexual fantasies, and some chilling encounters (Calloway 168). His fantasies interrupt and blend into the literal story of the chase, giving the narrative a nightmarish quality. Berlin and his fellow soldiers are innocents trapped in a corrupt, bizarre world, but the only character who seems truly courageous in the story is Cacciato (Eder 154). Even though his desertion is a nonsensical gesture, it frees him from the compromises to which the others cling: acceding to the draft, fighting a war that few believe in, and conforming so as to not endure shame and disapproval.In In the Lake of the Woods, Tim O'Brien tries to portray the obsession of one man who tries to completely erase any memories of the past and strives to live a normal life. At every corner of his life however, John Wade, the main character, is reminded of the horrors that he had to face in Vietnam. As a soldier in Vietnam, Wade was known as Sorcerer, a nickname he earned for his magic tricks; however, the importance of deception and illusion lies deep inside his psyche, as he manages to erase most records of his involvement in the My Lai massacre, escape court-martial, and keep the secret from his wife (150). In other words he tries to make the truth disappear. But to make truth disappear, is to enter a wasteland of moral anarchy in which even the most hellish actions are conceivable (Wilson 147). O'Brien narrates each version of what Wade has done in equally firm detail. Thematically this is appropriate, but it makes for an artistic botch. Suspense, like suspension...

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