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Tim OBrien's "On the Rainy River" - Chapter Analysis

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Introduction

On the Rainy River Emotion plays a big role in this Chapter, as Tim O?Brien illustrates his ambivalence towards participating in the Vietnam War when he is presented with a draft notice to fight. O?Brien explains how when he first received the letter he felt that he was too good to fight, but was constantly pressured by society to go. Because of this, O?Brien tries to resist making the decision between going to war or fleeing. He drives aimlessly around town at night, feeling sorry for himself, and trying to find an easy way out of the dilemma he?s in. ...read more.

Middle

When Elroy takes O?Brien out to the middle of the river in the boat, O?Brien has an emotional breakdown and bursts out crying. It is here that O?Brien finally concludes that he will go to war because of the fact that he is too embarrassed not to. Elroy Berdahl, the skinny, shrunken, bald man at the Tip-Top Lodge, silently plays a big role in O?Brien?s life by forcing O?Brien to confront the resisted decision when he takes O?Brien out in the boat between the two options of Canada or war. ?Elroy Berdahl remained quiet. He kept fishing?His eyes were flat and impassive. He didn?t speak. He was simply there, like the river and the late-summer sun. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even though the two do not discuss the dilemma at all, it seems that Berdahl somehow knows the truth and silently helps O?Brien escape from the confusion and distress he feels inside. The actual details in the story of chapter are questionable. However, O?Brien later explains that the meaning of the story is not to provide a narration of things exactly as they happened, but to accurately illustrate the feelings he felt using facts and details. By using the story in the book, O?Brien really helps the reader feel the extremity of the conflicting emotions he felt when he made his decision whether or not to go to war. He helps the reader recognize the difficult position he was in and allows the reader to accurately question and evaluate his decision and actions. ...read more.

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