Review of the "On the Rainy River" Written by Tim O’brien

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The short story, “On the Rainy River” written by Tim O’Brien, is based on his life experience when a month after graduating from Macalester College he was drafted to fight in war. O’Brien talks about the experience of living with the shame of events, which occurred during the summer of 1968. This story has great insight, which represents the time in 1968 where many men were forced to recruit into war with the mentality that society invoked on all masculine figures. For instance, males were afraid to show fear or doubtful, which produced them to feel ashamed of making themselves ‘softer.’ This enforces male to sexist ideals and mindlessly submissive to the male-dominated war or by demeaning them to the level of a ‘woman.’ This non-fiction story addresses the problems and difficulties due to the war in Vietnam that male roles encountered.

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At the beginning of the short story, we can see that his life is being defined by being part of war, the American war in Vietnam, and his social expectations as a male in a dominant-male environment. This is seen when he says “This is one story I’ve never told before. Not to anyone. Not to my parents, not to my brother or sister, not even to my wife” (O’Brien). This statement shows the level of his pride as a man, as he feels the need to keep his story from his family. In his opinion war to him seemed wrong, unnecessary events and effects, and not having an explanation of why he was drafted to war, leads for his mind to go crazy.

As the author is told that he is recruited to fight in the war, he becomes increasingly upset. He certainly does not want to be part of it. His initial dialogue is “I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate, too everything. It couldn’t happen. I was above it.” This displayed his passion for the war, and how much he did not feel aligned with it emotionally or morally. Which leads him to be against the war in Vietnam. He is convinced that war is wrong, but he admits that it all seems so abstract. The 1960s were a time of social upheaval, with the feminist and civil rights movement were taking place as well, as the country was divided between those who supported war, and those who disagreed with the U.S.’s involvement.

“In the evenings I’d sometimes borrow my father’s car and drive aimlessly around the town, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about the war, and the pig factory and how my life seemed to be collapsing toward slaughter. I felt paralyzed. All around me the options seemed to be narrowing as if I were hurtling down a huge black funnel, the whole word squeezing in tight. There was no happy way out.” This quote explains the imagery behind the huge black funnel representing war, and the whole world squeezing in tight representing the society forcing men to go to war to do the “right thing” which was fighting for their country. Moreover, all young men had no option but to put their lives in the line for war, they had their society thinking all male figures must fight in the war, and if you didn't, it would make you softer and to the standards of women.

“At night, when I couldn't sleep, I’d sometimes carry on fierce arguments with those people. I’d be screaming at them, telling them how much I detested their bling, thoughtless, automatic acquiescence to it all, their simples minded patriotism, their prideful ignorance, their love-it-or-leave-it-platitudes, how they were sending me off to fight war they didn't understand and didn't want to understand.” Tim O’Brien’s community did not understand his point of view on war, his civil rights and the postcolonial in the government effects.

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