Tim O'brien's On the Rainy River Essay

Tim O'brien's On the Rainy River Essay

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Tim O'brien's "On the Rainy River"


Tim O'brien's "On the Rainy River" is a true story told by a 41 year old of his life at the age of 21. The fact that O'brien is writing this 20 years later adds a new aspect to the story. He describes himself as a young man with the world in his back pocket. O'brien has just graduated from Macalester College and has a free ride to Harvard. Unfortunately, his storybook world collapses when he receives a draft notice for the Vietnam war, a war that he has "taken a modest stand against"(44) in 1968.

Upon receiving his draft notice, O'brien was thrown into a world of what he calls "moral confusion"(44). As a 21 year-old, he follows every rule put forth in front of him, even though he says "he couldn't tolerate authority"(45). If O'brien didn't follow authority, though, he never would have been successful. This is one of the causes of his moral confusion. O'Brien has never had to make moral testing decisions in his life, like whether to face his family or to run to Canada. Another cause for his moral confusion was his stand on the war. He thought it was wrong for numerous reasons, such as not knowing why they were fighting. O'Brien would have gladly fought in a war that he believed in but the draft board didn't let him choose his war. All of these pressures came down to whether he would be the conformist of the past or believe in what he thought was right.

All of the pressures built up and something inside of him cr...

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Tim O'brien's On the Rainy River Essay

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