?In the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the narrator experiences that nothing can change your life like war.
Most of the Americans were against the war so was the narrator but in “On the Rainy river” he realizes that he must go fight in the war.Although Tim’s family pressures him to go to war, he resists making a decision about whether to go to war or to flee to Canada. If he doesn’t go to war, he would be embarrassed and humiliated from the people who want him to fight. Tim meets an old man named Elroy Berdahl at the Tip Top Lodge who helps him make the decision to fight in the war. Elroy Berdahl is an intelligent man who leads Tim to the right path. A path, Tim would not be able to figure out on his own. ?Elroy Berdahl is considered to be Tim’s “life hero”.
Elroy offers Tim money and the opportunity to flee while they’re out on a boat ride because Elroy can see O’Brien’s desperation through his constant recognition of the price. Elroy’s actions reveal Tim’s good qualities and help him make the important decision. Elroy knew Tim needed help because of his experience with different people. Elroy helped Tim in his gentle way. “Elroy turns the boat directly North and they cross into Canadian waters. O’Brien could feel the tightness in his chest when he could see the border.” I feel like at this point Tim realized that Elroy wanted to give him the opportunity to face head on the choice to flee, whatever the choice was going to be, to finally make it.
Elroy forces Tim to look that choice in the face, to make it real and inescapable. Elroy was an important symbol as O’Brien states, ” He was the true audience. He was a witness, like God, or like gods, who look on in absolute silence as we live our lives.
.”(60, O’Brien). Elroy doesn’t push Tim to make either choices, and he doesn’t even judge him. He is just there watching and Tim feels his presence. Elroy’s silence is so comforting to Tim because he realizes that his absence means a lot to him as “O’Brien cant recall telling Elroy goodbye. O’Brien told Elroy he would be leaving, and Elroy nodded like he knew.” (60, O’Brien).
Soldiers felt obligated to go to war for fear of embarrassing themselves, their families and their towns if they fled. The author reveals embarrassment in the “On the Rainy River”, Tim went to Vietnam for war. He almost went to Canada but fear stopped him. “All those eyes on me”, he writes, “and I couldn’t risk the embarrassment..
I couldn’t endure the mockery, or the disgrace, or the patriotic ridicule.. I was a coward. I went to war.”(59, O’Brien).
I feel like Tim wouldn’t have gone to war if it wasn’t about “embarrassment”. I believe Tim made the right life changing decision with the help of Elroy. Even though he never tells him the reason but Elroy knows. Elory does all he can to help O’Brien make his own decision about whether to go to Vietnam for war or run to Canada. At the end, Tim ends up going to war and he realizes he was a coward for going to the war.
“I survived, but it’s not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war.” Tim’s decision about going to war was motivated by shame, he doesn’t see himself as a war hero, just a coward who gave in to social pressures. I feel like if Elroy wasn’t there to guide Tim, he wouldn’t have made the decision.