To Go or Not To Go
The Vietnam War was a very confrontational issue amongst numerous Americans during the 1960’s and 70’s. Many young Americans did not agree with fighting in the Vietnam War. In the essay “On the Rainy River,” by Tim O’Brien explains the struggle of a 21 year old American man who has been drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. The essay proposes the narrators predicament of not wanting to go to war and displays his reasons why. The narrator states that “American war in Vietnam seemed to [him as being] wrong [and he] saw no unity of purpose” (40). One main reason that the narrator and many Americans did not see any importance of the Vietnam War is because know one had a clear understanding of the reasons why the United States of America was fighting it. O’Brien creates a strong argument of why the 21 year old man does not want to go to war because of its strongly supported use of values and emotions, credibility, and logical reasoning.
In the story “On the Rainy River,” emotions contribute to the strength of this argument. O’Brien rouses the audience by using descriptive emotional examples. The narrator describes the impact of opening the draft letter: scanning the first few lines, feeling the blood go thick behind my eyes. I remember a sound in my head. It wasn’t thinking, just a silent howl. (41)
Reading his emotional feelings during the event taken place, the audience is affected by the narrator’s problem. In addition, after the first impact of shock the narrator becomes defensive by stating that he is “too good for this war […] too smart, too compassionate, too everything” (41). Emotions rapidly running through his head, the narrator expresses his defensive opinions about being drafted. The narrator is emotionally sick about being drafted that he explains that he would “sometimes borrow [his] father’s car and drive aimlessly around town, feeling sorry for [himself], thinking about the war and the pig factory and how [his] life seemed to be collapsing toward slaughter” (43). Descriptions of his feelings grab the reader emotionally and allow the audience to further understand his reasoning towards not wanting to go to war. The use of emotion contributes to making his argument solid.
The narrator’s values play a major role in causing this argument to be strong. O’Brien displays the narrator’s values as being an obstacle to his decision. Contemplating his options of dodging the draft, the narrator explains that he “feared ridicule and censure,” from friends and family (45). The narrator’s confusion in making a decision is because he fears defying his values:
My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful for was resisting, like weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me. Not my parents, not my brother and sister, not even the folks...