On the Rainy River


*Research Question: How does O'Brien use the obsession with courage to emphasize the fear of moral weakness?


*Courage: 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.                                                                                                                                                

                 2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion


*Read page 51-52: "My conscience told me to run, but some irattional and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. what it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame"

Tim O'Brien highlights how what made him go to the war, was the fact everyone would be against it, and he would be called a coward. Therefore going against his principles. He declares how courage is a form of fear and shame put together.


*Read page 57: "Right then, with the shore so close, I understood that I would not do what I should do"

He realizes that he will not swim away from his people or country, although he does swim away from his own life.


*Discussion Questions:

-What is the difference between a moral action and a socially acceptable action?  

-In the last paragraph, the narrator says, “I was a coward. I went to war.” Why do you think O’Brien believed it was cowardly to GO to Vietnam rather than stay home?


*Conclusion: Tim O’Brien reveals that the decisions which require the greatest courage are those that will cause others to label you a coward. This is the test that he himself cannot pass, the reason he’s so disappointed with himself. He allows fear of ridicule from his parents, his friends, and the townspeople to dictate his decision instead of following his conscious.