Tim O'brien Essay

2115 words - 8 pages

"Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons" (O'Brien The Things They Carried 40) This quote greatly portrayed Tim O'Brien's attitude while serving as a foot soldier in Vietnam, and still does in his writings today. O'Brien was lost, not knowing how he ended up in Vietnam, or why he was still there. O'Brien didn't know why he was fighting, or who he was fighting against. When O'Brien first received his draft notice in the summer of 1968, he spent days at the Canadian border considering whether or not he would report for boot camp. After a long time searching his soul, O'Brien learned something about himself that troubled him for a long time; he was more concerned with the opinions of his peers rather than what he wanted to do with his own life. "I was a coward. I went to the war" (O'Brien The Things They Carried 61). O'Brien often returned to the troubling memory when he came to the realization that he was too much of a coward to stand up for what he believes in. O'Brien battled this shameful memory every day in Vietnam and still continues to. It was the harshness of this day-to-day reality that forced O'Brien to learn something about himself, which turned out to be the fact that he could no longer cope with the austere veracities of Vietnam. O'Brien later found himself concentrating more on escaping the war mentally rather than surviving the nightly ambushes. Death was all around O'Brien, and when attempting to simply ignore it was not enough, he turned to drugs. O'Brien frequently escaped reality to avoid the harshness of Vietnam, his cowardliness, and the disturbing thoughts about death. On the war front of Vietnam, there were many aspects which are forced into the back of O'Brien's mind. O'Brien would try to avoid scrutinizing into the eyes of those he saw pass away, but the few times that he made the mistake of looking, even for a brief moment, the haunting picture of the deceased's face will stay with him for life. There is a distinction between seeing, which could not be avoided, and looking.Looking is a combination of seeing and thinking about what has happened.O'Brien was caught in a paradox. Whenever he had to make the decision to gape upon the dead, if he looked, the unearthly gaze that he received in return and the memory of the life O'Brien thought the person may have had would haunt him forever. On the other hand, when he did not look, he was troubled by his obscured memory. "There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I'm left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief" (O'Brien The Things They Carried 180). O'Brien often returns to the days when he saw dead people, whether it be friend or enemy, and is troubled when he can only think of blurs instead of details. In O'Brien's autobiography, If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, there was a chapter dedicated to a man who's death he may be...

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