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On The Rainy River

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Rachael Melenka

on 9 October 2013

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Transcript of On The Rainy River

The Struggle To Find Courage
Tim's realization that courage comes with effort.
"This is one story I`ve
never told before...'' (p. 70).
The Search for
"On the Rainy River'' is an exploration of the narrator's journey through the challenges and emotional struggles of war.
"On the Rainy River"
by Tim O'Brien
"To go into [the story], I've always thought, would only cause
... which is the natural response to a confession...'' (p. 70).
"...I've had to live with [this story],
feeling the shame
... and so by this act of remembrance... I'm hoping to relieve at least some of the pressure on my dreams...'' (p. 70).
"All of us...like to believe that in a
moral emergency
we will behave like the heroes of our youth, bravely and forthrightly...'' (p. 70).
The Vietnam War
This story takes place in the 1960's. It was a time period in which many young people rebelled against the beliefs and traditions of older generations.
Tim is forced to fight in a war that he didn't understand and didn't have a passion for.
"...the American war in Vietnam seemed to me so wrong...'' (p.71).
"Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons... I saw no unity of purpose, no consensus... the very facts were shrouded in uncertainty...'' (p.71).
"The only certainty that summer was
moral confusion
...'' (p. 71).
"It was my view then, and still is, that you don't make war without knowing why...'' (p. 71).
The Vietnam War was the longest war in American history.
US drafted soldiers into South Vietnam to help stop the communism threat from North Vietnam.
started in the 1950's, and didn't end until the late 1970's when South Vietnam surrendered to the communists.
Tim felt a sudden sense of panic and shock when he received his draft notice.
Condescending attitude toward going to fight in Vietnam. Tim thought he was
"...too good for the war...'' (p. 72).
Meat packing plant:
a symbol of the mindless slaughter in war, and how soldiers file into battle like the conveyor belts in the plant. Reveals Tim's queasiness and dislike for blood and thoughtless death.
"... to stop a Hitler... I would've willingly marched off to the battle... the problem, though, was that a draft board did not let you choose your war...'' (p. 73).
Social or personal injustice may cause the need for redemption within ourselves.

the pressure of society and the feeling of guilt and shame
In a state of moral emergency, one may choose the comfort of conforming, and disregard their own values and beliefs.
Personal conscience

I couldn't make up my mind...'' (p. 74).
"I feared the war...'' (p. 74).
"...I also feared exile.
I was afraid of walking away from my own life, my friends and my family, my whole history...'' (p. 74).
The Rainy River

Elroy Berdahl
A symbol of Tim's moral split between the decision to draft-dodge to Canada, be a victim of shame and disappoint his family and friends, or go to war and risk his life fighting for reasons he did not understand.
Symbol of the universal witness
"He was simply there...and yet, by his presence, his mute watchfulness, he made it real...'' (p. 83).
"He was the true audience... a witness, like God, or like gods, who look on in absolute silence... as we make our choices or fail to make them...'' (p. 84).
Tim's motivation to run away from the familiarity and comfort of routine, and venture into the unknown.
"I just drove, not aiming at anything... I was exhausted, and scared sick...'' (p. 75).
"... the hero of my life.'' (76)
In a hidden, wise manner, Elroy helped Tim make his decision whether or not to go to war.
"... he must've planned it... I think he meant to bring me up against the realities... to take me to the edge and to stand a kind of vigil as I chose a life for myself...'' (p. 81).
"A moral freeze.
I couldn't decide, couldn't act... all I could do was cry...'' (p. 81).
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
- "I Dare You To Move'' by Switchfoot
Tim struggles with the possible consequence of sacrificing his
past, present and future
if he goes to Canada
"Right then, with the shore so close, I understood... I would not swim away from my hometown and my country and my life. I would not be brave...'' (p. 82).
"... I couldn't risk the embarrassment... I couldn't endure the mockery, or the disgrace, or the patriotic ridicule...'' (p. 83).
"And right then I submitted. I would go to the war-I would kill and maybe die- because I was embarrassed not to...'' (p. 83).
Everyone's here
Everybody's watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next
- "I Dare You To Move'' by Switchfoot
Tim is disgusted with the decision he makes. He is embarrassed by the actions he took, and what he succumbs to.
"... I was a soldier... I survived, but it's not a happy ending, I was a coward. I went to war...'' (p. 84).
In the end, Tim succumbs to the pressure of conforming to society, and decides to go to the war. However, he continues to view himself as a coward because he wasn't courageous enough to go against the norms of society to protect his values and beliefs.
- "I Dare You To Move'' by Switchfoot
The Path of Choice
By Rachael Melenka
Full transcript