On the Rainy River

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Text Talk for “On the Rainy River”

Theme/Thesis for the text talk: Tim O’Brien has spent his life and his career as a writer finding redemption for the “cowardice” he mentions in “On the Rainy River”. He wants the reader to believe that having the courage to say “no” to injustice is the only way to make that injustice end.

Objective: When the text talk has concluded, the students will be able to understand that Tim O’Brien regrets his ultimate decision to go to war, and that it is the responsibility of those who recognize injustice to stand against it even in the face of shame and exile. The students will recall other examples of people exhibiting the courage to stand against unjust laws.

Materials: envelope, needles, note, video of Tim O’Brien discussing what “he carries”, questions on index cards, slides with examples of people standing up to injustice

Introduction: (How will the instructors gain the students’ attention and prepare them for the lesson?) The teacher will take out an envelope with “draft notice” written on the front. She will remove the draft notice items from the envelope and present them to the class.

Lesson content: (Describe what the instructors will do during the lesson.)

1. The teacher will ask the class to chart the angst of the character in “On the Rainy River”. What were the concerns and fears related to his decision about his draft card? How does he feel about the decision, and how does the reader know? Which non-human “character” inhabits the story? What point is O’Brien making about this character with his story “On the Rainy River”?

2. The teacher will show a brief film of O’Brien answering the question: “What do you carry?”

3. After showing the film, the teacher will ask the class:
a.) “How do you think O’Brien has spent his life and career in the years since he made the decision to go to war?”

b.) What is the “theme” of Tim O’Brien’s life? What does he believe about human behavior and human...
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