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On the Rainy River - Essay

  • Date Submitted: 02/16/2012 03:30 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 66 
  • Words: 920
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In the chapter “On the Rainy River,” Tim O’Brien, the author and the narrator, tells of his emotional journey towards making a life altering decision.   He has everything promising laid out in front of him, yet it all comes crashing down when he receives a draft notice detailing his quick departure for the Vietnam War.   Because of his differing opinions on the conflict at hand, O’Brien realizes that he is about to make a decision that will change the rest of his life:   he can either fight in a war that he does not agree with or cowardly flee to Canada as a “safe haven.”   The author soon recognizes that he does not have a choice in the matter, he never really did.   O’Brien would go and fight, but in hindsight, he would realize that this was a mistake—a cowardly, guilt-ridden mistake.
Through the use of stream of consciousness, the reader quickly empathized with O’Brien’s situation but not with his character.   His reasons for not wanting to go to the war were purely selfish.   “[He] was too good” to go fight for his country and put his life on hold for a cause he did not believe in; “[He] was above it.”   The reader begins to lose respect for O’Brien early on as he describes himself as being “too smart, too compassionate, too everything.”   As the narrator decides he must leave his small town and get away in order to make his decision, he finds himself at a fishing lodge on the Rainy River located on the Minnesota, Canada border, a setting very symbolic of his situation.   The river lies right in the middle of two different worlds—two different decisions.   One way, Minnesota, would be his decision to follow through with the draft notice and go to war, and the other way, Canada, would be his decision to cowardly run from his problems.   O’Brien spends a few days with the owner of the lodge, Elroy Berdahl, who seems to be more like God than an actual person.   He was able to take one look at O’Brien and “went right to the heart of things.”   Elroy knew what he was going...


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