The common phrase, "Don 't judge a man until you 've walked a mile in his shoes”, tells the world to never put a label on an individual before you have truly experienced what they have gone through. Tim O Brien 's work, In the Lake of the Woods, shows how men who have all experienced war, truly have walked in each other’s shoes. These traumatizing experiences impact the human spirit dramatically because once back from the war, veterans struggle to live normal lives. Only men and women who have experienced this brutality can begin to understand why veterans from every war are left traumatized and haunted by the terrifying scene called war. O’Brien’s novel shows the journey of a narrator trying to heal from his own war experience by living vicariously through John Wade. Through his reconstruction of John Wade’s life, the narrator is able to come to terms with his identity. He realizes that his own experiences have affected him tremendously, and through his research he can slowly begin to heal.
War goes against what normal society thinks is morally acceptable, such as killing, injuring and shooting other human beings. Veterans also have trouble relearning to understand their emotions and open up to others. Both the narrator and John saw firsthand, the horror and death of war through all of the brutal killings. Not only that, but they were participants in this killing as well. Living through an incredibly difficult experience like this can really affect and change an individual’s life forever as it did for both the narrator and John. The narrator and John were both moved and traumatized by their past, making it difficult for them to open to others. Their disturbing war experiences caused their relationships with others to suffer dramatically. In fact, their experiences left such a great impact on their lives that they both faced anxiety and despair later on in their life.
War trauma can also leave soldiers disillusioned by the
Cited: O’Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods. New York: Penguin, 1994.