“On the Rainy River” is about the time when Tim O’Brien gets a draft notice for the Vietnam War. He talks about the time in his life that he is shameful of which he portrays as a type of confession about being a coward. The reason for the confession is that he debated and almost dodged the draft for the Vietnam War. “Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons” (O’Brien 38). The uncertainty that the people being drafted had with the United States agenda for the war was bewildering. The context of O’Brien’s fictional writing in the story has a certain context that is important to the story and with this background you can see Tim O’Brien’s assumed cowardliness in a different light.
O’Brien questions many aspects about this war when he was drafted. While disgruntled he asks, “Was it a civil war? A war of national liberation or simple aggression? Who started it, and...
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... of his book to show his attitude toward the war which is that he is against it and hates it. O’Brien states, “Once people are dead, you can’t make them undead” (O’Brien 39). He does not agree with the United States agenda in this conflict and he doesn’t want to kill a person in a conflict that he doesn’t agree with. Later in the book in the short story “Ambush,” O’Brien recalls the time he killed someone and he states, “I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy” (O’Brien 126). This is evidence that through all of his experiences from being drafted up to that moment, he still views the war the same way he did when he asked those specific questions. O’Brien fought in a war that he did not agree with and caused certain blood to be shed for reasons that were still uncertain to him which is why he believes, “I was a coward. I went to war” (O’Brien 58).
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