Tim O'Brien American Literature Analysis
All of O’Brien’s books touch on the Vietnam War, if only peripherally. However, Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried, and In the Lake of the Woods, along with the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, are deeply concerned with the experience of the war. O’Brien uses the Vietnam War as a means to explore courage, memory, truth, and the art of storytelling in these books.
Courage, and its reverse, cowardice, are important themes throughout O’Brien’s work. In both his memoir and his stories such as “On the Rainy River” from The Things They Carried, O’Brien reaches the conclusion that he found himself in the infantry not because he was brave but rather because he lacked the courage to go to Canada in order not to have to participate in what he believed was an immoral war. In Going After Cacciato, the central event of the book is Paul Berlin’s collapse from fear as his unit rushes Cacciato’s position. Unable to control his bladder, Berlin finds his response to fear to be both shameful and humiliating. Although he dreams of the Silver Star, he experiences himself as cowardly. The Silver Star figures as a central image in a series of stories in The Things They Carried as well: “Speaking of Courage,” “Notes,” and “In the Field” all relate the events surrounding the death of a particularly beloved character, Kiowa, in a sewage field. For character...
(The entire section is 2400 words.)
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