Short Story Essay "On the Rainy River"

Topics: Shame, Conscription in the United States, Vietnam War Pages: 2 (804 words) Published: June 11, 2013
Confessions of an Embarrassed Soldier

Tim O’Brien’s personal short story, “On the Rainy River,” evokes an inner struggle to serve, or to “run” to Canada. O’Brien shamefully expresses his own horrific tale of compromise of the draft in the summer of ‘68. At 21 years old, “young, yes, and politically naive,” he feels “moral confusion” for the decision he has to make. O’Brien’s use of first person narration in his old age, evokes a sense of embarrassment which he feels for choosing to fight in a meaningless war.

O'Brien conjures up one such paradox of courage and fear. He explains that he was "ashamed to be doing the right thing" in following his conscience and going to Canada. Because this paradox is a complete reverse of commonly held beliefs about courage in war. O'Brien who has never told the story of his flight to the Tip Top Lodge before — needs to "write" a story as a means for constructing a way to understand the paradox and to move on from his embarrassment. His decision to fight in the war forces him to elaborate a story which is, only “to relieve at least some of the pressure.” He claims that the “story” may not be true but it contains emotional truth. A story which makes him “squirm,” bringing a stain to his happiness for the rest of his life.

O’Brien very intimately conveys a confession of bitterness and regret he has had to face his entire life because of that life altering decision. The day he opens the envelope which contained the draft notice, his inner turmoil is parallel to the weather, which was very “cloudy.” He was “feeling the blood go thick behind” his eyes, and a “silent howl” in his head, his tone reflects his scarred memory of the past. The language O’Brien uses, one can clearly tell that he hasn’t forgotten that day, in fact it is etched into his memory forever. Fresh out of Macalester College, O’Brien is drafted to fight in a war he hated. He is young and had close to little knowledge about politics but he knew that the...
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