Decisions: Tim O'brien's The Things They Carried

1415 words - 6 pages

Everyday individuals face decisions in which they must choose whether to do what is appealing to them or to choose a more suitable and compliable choice. In the fictional work of ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’ Brien, certain characters such as Tim O’ Brien himself must face decisions similar to these. The novel demonstrates that when an individual is faced with a decision in which there is a choice that he may have to conform, the individual tends to conform due to not wanting to embarrass themselves or to not be portrayed as a coward to others. However when the individual is challenged with these types of decisions, the choice does not matter since the outcome will be what the individual was trying to avoid. That is to say that in the excerpt “The Rainy River” Tim O’ Brien was going through a conflicting decision on whether or not he should go to the war. Yet, as we see it turns out that either choice will lead to either shame or cowardice. If he goes to the war he feels that he will be a coward and that he gave up his own morals and values and accepted something he does not believe in, but if he does not go to war he will be shunned by society and will be labelled as a coward because he will not fight for his country.
Initially, in the chapter “On the Rainy River” we see O’Brien’s first interaction with his decision on whether he should go to the war or not, when he receives his draft letter. Immediately he has made up his mind not to go since he believes the war is immoral and that he is too good, too smart and too compassionate for this war. He later lists many accomplishments in his senior years such as being “the president of the student body, and his full-ride scholarship to Harvard” (pg.41), to show how much of a better and more civilized human he is than the rest of the war supporting bimbos. He is enraged that the government is making him fight a war that he had no part in. So enraged at the fact that he lives in a country that would support laws like this because he believes it is immoral. But at the end of the day he cannot do anything but feel sorry for himself. He contemplates about moving to Canada and to just move away from the whole war business, then imagines himself talking to his father about his decision. “I feared the war, yes, but I also feared exile.” (pg.44). This shows O’Brien’s raging struggle within himself as he tries to find a possible way out of a situation what truly seems impossible to escape. He feared that if he had to leave his whole life behind him, what would become of him. He feared of the loss of respect his parents would have for him and also the rest of the country would see him as a sissy boy and a coward. But, to him going to the war would make himself feel like a coward as well because he would not be supporting his own morals and instead have to conform to society. So this battle within him clearly shows that there is no possible positive outcome when challenged by a difficult decision.

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