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The Things They Did Not Carry

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Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried, specifically the chapter entitled "On the Rainy River," offers a complex look at wartime courage. At age 21, O'Brien faced a conflict over his decision of whether to go to war, because he saw both the option to go to war and the option not to go as actions of cowardice, each in their own way

For a 21-year-old I believe that O'Brien had a very complex theory of courage, for him to realize the problems of man and what he had to do to escape this unjust war is amazing. Whereas then he felt that going to war was cowardly, he also felt initially that not going to war was just as cowardly, that is why he has such a conflict while on the Rainy River. He was torn between believing what the government was telling him that it was a just war and one that deserved to be fought in by him, even though he knows this is wrong he still feels this at times, while at other times he feels stronger and wants to believe the truth that war is wrong and he should not go to war. Unfortunately is he chose to not go to war, he would face criticism from many people and he did not want to do what he inwardly knew was right. Although the chapter is written from his 21-year-old standpoint I belief that he is not truthfully stating how he felt, but in fact intermixing his feelings and retrospective opinions that had formed over the next thirty years. So this supposed "21-year-old theory of courage" is actually his current theory of courage, and he expresses it through the book.

When I first read the chapter, I was actually shocked by the fact that he felt that he was a coward for going to war. I actually contemplated on the matter for several days after reading the passage, I reread it and I have to the opinion that O'Brien hit the nail exactly on the dot when he called himself a coward. He truly was, in the mind of some he would be seen as a hero for going to war, but when

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