In the Lake of the Woods

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In the novel In the Lake of the Woods, O’Brien channels between his life in the present at the lake with his wife, and his life in the past, recalling memories from the war in Vietnam. The novel begins with a preview into the love life and marriage of John and Kathy Wade. While the novel progresses, their relationship begins to deteriorate and as the narrator jumps from his past to his present, the impact of his time in Vietnam becomes more apparent as a primary factor in the failure of their marriage. Throughout the book there are sections of hypotheses and evidence that observe a mixture of fiction and non fiction documents. Some are simply historical facts about the condition of soldiers after Vietnam, particularly the My Lai massacre, while others are fabricated interviews and statements from the characters in the story examining the strange behavior of John Wade himself. The way the chapters are arranged in a scattered format attest to how the jaded past of John Wade sporadically emerged into his life with his wife, the election, and his sanity.

Like many stories, the novel is not presented in chronological order. Even as the narrator jumps from past to present to evidence to hypotheses, the sections are not always continuous individually. O’Brien utilizes this method because the story was not written to develop the life of John Wade, but rather to examine it as it relates to the past that he tried to conceal from the election and his wife. Each piece of evidence serves to further expand the elements that tainted John Wade and provide possibilities to the case of his missing wife. The hypotheses are an explanation of the story that also maintains the mystery in the novel because they never provide a concise ending. In the beginning, these chapters are confusing, but they help the reader see the main plot in greater depth. The significance of the events is more indicative than the order of the events.

John Wade’s involvement in Vietnam is most associated...
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