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Book Review Of "The Things They Carried"

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Tim O'Brien's, The Things they Carried is a riveting tale of struggle and sacrifice, self indulgence and self pity, and the intrapersonal battles that reeked havoc on even the most battle tested soldiers. O'Brien is able to express these ideas through eloquent writing and descriptive language that makes the reader feel as if he were there. The struggle to avoid cowardice is a prevailing idea in all of O'Brien's stories.

In "On the Rainy River", O'Brien writes of intrapersonal struggle in its most profound form. The gripping torture of indecision seemed to paralyze Lt. Jimmy Cross in every move he made. Fear is what kept him away from the war, and fear is what made him join his countrymen in battle. A pacifist who did not support the war, the narrator Jimmy Cross was forced to make the difficult decision of what was more important to him. In the end, it was Cross's reluctancy to deal with the consequences of pacifism which made his decision to go to war. That indecision seems to stay with Cross throughout the book and causes him much hardship in many of the short stories.

The struggle to avoid cowardice is very important to the narrator. In his time near the Canadian border, he has much time for self reflection. That self reflection seemed to be something very necessary for Lt. Jimmy Cross. While there, he discovered that devotion to his family, his hometown, and his country was stronger than devotion to his own morals. In those turbulent American times, protest was very common and political indifference was nowhere to be found. Issues of war ripped through families, cities, and eventually, the entire country. By making the decision to go to the war, some would place the distinction of bravery on Cross. He, however, felt like a coward. For he had given in to the society around him and their pressures. Instead of following his heart and staying true to his morals, Cross took the easy way out. By fighting in the war, he avoided the criticism and ridicule which marred draft dodgers and the lifetime of embarrassment that was sure to follow.

The narrator is torn



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