Help with Questions to The Things They Carried: On The Rainy River (pages 39-61)
On The Rainy River (pages 39-61)
1. When Tim O’Brien was drafted into the war, how did he feel about the American war
in Vietnam? Why did he feel this way? Provide examples.
2. What was Tim’s initial reaction to his draft letter?
3. Explain how Tim O’Brien “cracked” one morning after receiving his draft notice.
What happened to him? What did he do as a result?
4. When Tim was driving along the Rainy River, he said that the river “separated one life
from another” for him. What does he mean by this?
5. Tim is given a very difficult choice to make. The choice between running away to
Canada or staying and fighting in a war he does not believe in. Why did he choose not to
run to Canada?
6. Why does Tim feel that Elroy Berdahl saved his life?
7. In “On The Rainy River,” we learn the 21-year-old O’Brien’s theory of courage: “Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It was a comforting theory.”
In your own words, explain how Tim O’Brien views courage.
Were you surprised when O’Brien described his entry into the Vietnam War as an act of cowardice?
Do you agree that a person could enter a war as an act of cowardice?
8. Why does Tim feel guilty about going to Vietnam? Why would Tim feel ashamed if he made the choice to flee to Canada?