On The Rainy River (Analysis Essay)
Sometimes it takes courage to acknowledge other people’s experiences because we learn from them to build our personal identity. The story On The Rainy River explores the theme of embarrassment as a motivating factor. Tim O’Brien talks about his personal experiences, he is surrounded by the guilt of not going to Vietnam. He questions the motives of fighting in the war by examining some of the causes and effects of war.
His guilt is evident when he narrates about his experiences to Elroy the owner of a fishing lodge where he stayed for a while to recollect about his life. According to O’Brien, before he received a letter to serve in the army, he was against the war. He participated in various activities, writing college editorial against the war. When he received a draft card he had to decide on whether to go to war or not. Even though he struggled with his inner feelings showing courage, O’Brien is immersed with the guilt of not following what is expected of him by the society.
The story is narrated using a mix of personal narrative and flashbacks. The narrator sometimes slips back to his young self. The tension between the two narrative voices gives the story some intensity. The interplay between the two voices made the story more of a dialogue between the two voices. The author uses traumatic memories and imagination, which serves a structure of his entire story. When describing his personal experiences, O’Brien makes a broader comparison of how soldiers experience confusion when they are faced with the dilemma having to choose between serving their country and following their principles.
The major theme of the story is about courage, it reaches a point the narrator has to decide to follow his moral judgment to resist going to war, but the social pressure of fighting in the war is also evident. O’Brien present courage using paradoxical events. He revisited most of his experiences highlighting mixed outcomes of fear and courage. He explains that he felt ashamed to do the right thing by following his conscience to run away to Canada. Such notions present the paradox associated with going to war because most people stand up to fight for their country.
O’Brien justifies his actions stating that he did not want to die in war because he did not believe in it. In his narration, O’Brien narrates his experience and knowledge to piece together a coherent narrative justifying his actions. His moment of realization is not on what he believes is right, but the things society is subjected him to and his inability to stand up to their expectations. His memories characterize his shame, and the force of his imagination makes him feel embarrassed to the extent that he wonders if it is worth risking his life and killing other to avoid such shame. He presents his moral dilemma in the present by actively engaging the readers. O’Brien wants the reader to put themselves in his shoes as Elroy made him face his fears. His guilt is caused by lack of courage to challenge the society’s expectations.
After trying to justify his decision, O’Brien ends the story using a paradox expression. Throughout the story O’Brien’s actions show that he is a coward, in the end, he makes one of the bravest action and risking his life.
The narrative by O’Brien, the story reveals his need to justify and explain his decision to the reader showing courage for standing up for what he believed in. O’Brien struggle to be courageous but his inner feelings cause guilt because he fails to live up to the society’s expectations.
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