The Things They Carried

In "On the Rainy River" the narrator reveals his attempt to evade the draft...

In "On the Rainy River" the narrator reveals his attempt to evade the draft. He is faced with the opportunity to escape to Canada without alerting authorities. He, literally, makes it within feet of the Canadian border, yet he returns home and eventually reports for service. What is the narrator's motive as he chooses to report for military duty? Incorporate quotes that could be used for how one could agree or disagree with the narrator's decision.

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"On the Rainy River” contains the main existential and moral crisis of the book. The turning point at the river is a classic Freudian scene. The boy wants to jump out of the boat, his ego and his id (his authentic desires) strain to go. But his superego (what society orders) constrains him. In this story, the superego is symbolized by O’Brien imagining large crowds of people watching him make his decision. The scene takes place on a river; water for Freud often symbolizes the unconscious, where the battle between the superego, id and ego takes place.

Ultimately others’ expectations of him are more powerful than O’Brien’s own moral compass. His deference to his superego is O’Brien’s tragic flaw. Tragic heroes in Greek plays also have a tragic flaw: the one shortcoming from which all of their other misdeeds flow. O’Brien’s tragic flaw is caving to society.