The word "hero" is so often used to describe people who overcome great difficulties and rise to the challenge that is set before them without even considering the overwhelming odds they are up against. In our culture, heroes are glorified in literature and in the media in various shapes and forms. However, I believe that many of the greatest heroes in our society never receive the credit that they deserve, much less fame or publicity. I believe that a hero is simply someone who stands up for what he/she believes in. A person does not have to rush into a burning building and save someone's life to be a hero. Someone who is a true friend can be a hero. A hero is someone who makes a difference in the lives of others simply by his/her presence. In Tim O'Brien's novel, The Things They Carried, the true heroes stand out in my mind as those who were true friends and fought for what they believed in. These men and women faced the atrocities of war on a daily basis, as explained by critic David R. Jarraway's essay, "'Excremental Assault' in Tim O'Brien: Trauma and Recovery in Vietnam War Literature" and by Vietnam Veteran Jim Carter. Yet these characters became heroes not by going to drastic measures to do something that would draw attention to themselves, but by being true to their own beliefs and by making a difference to the people around them.
One of the most striking examples of a hero in O'Brien's novel is the character Elroy Berdahl in the story "On the Rainy River." Berdahl runs the Tip Top Lodge near the Canadian border and takes O'Brien in at a point in his life where he feels he has nowhere and no one to turn to. Berdahl does not question O'Brien or try to persuad...
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King, Rosemary. "O'Brien's 'How to Tell a True War Story.'" The Explicator. 57.3 (1999): 182. Expanded Academic ASAP.
Lopez, Ken. "Tim O'Brien: An Introduction to His Writing." Ken Lopez - Bookseller. 1997. 8 Oct 1999.
Passaro, Vince. "The Things They Carried (Review)." Harper's Magazine. 299.1791 (1999): 80. Expanded Academic ASAP.
Robinson, Daniel. "Getting It Right: The Short Fiction of Tim O'Brien." Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 40.3 (1999): 257. Expanded Academic ASAP.
The student may wish to begin the paper with the following quote:
Ah for a young man
all looks fine and noble if he goes down in war,
hacked to pieces under a slashing bronze blade
he lies there dead. . .but whatever death lays bare
all wounds are marks of glory. (Homer 22.83-87)
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