The Things They Carried

o'brien's conscience told him to run. what kept him from doing it?

all i know is that he decided to go to war

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After a long buildup, and the climactic decision in the boat, O’Brien ends the story with a paradox. The fact that he was a coward made him do the bravest thing imaginable: place himself in a life-threatening situation. The New York Times book review of O’Brien’s book was titled “Too Embarrassed Not to Kill." Embarrassment and shame turn out to be the pervasive themes of the book.