The Price of Choosing

A story in which the character has to make a difficult decision is Tim O’Brien‘s, The Things they Carried. This is the story of soldiers in the Vietnam war who were drafted to serve in the early 1900s. The story begins with the main character Tim O’Brien facing the challenge of being drafted and a fear of going to the war. O’Briens difficult decision comes when he wants to run away to escape being drafted and pursue a new life in Canada .

When O’Brien receives his draft letter in the mail, he has to weigh his options about the future. He thinks of all the pros and cons, and of course the cons outweigh the pros. O’Brien did not want to be another statistic, a man who died in the war; young and intelligent with no chance at a long life or a family. O’Brien said ‘I was too good for this war; too smart, too compassionate, to everything.” (Page 39) But with every opportunity to escape to Canada, O’Brien hesitates and feelings of embarrassment develop when he thinks about not being able to return to his family and everyone that he loves. O’Brien was conflicted as he also felt as if giving into the war and the draft made a man more cowardly than standing up for what he believed in. O’Brien goes against his own beliefs to stay in the good graces of his family and the country because he knew that if he went to Canada, he possibly couldn’t come back. That outcome was too overwhelming and O’Brien conformed to going to the war. Later in the book as O’Brien recounts his journey he stated “I survived, but it’s not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war.”

My position on what makes someone cowardly is also similar to O’Brien’s. I feel as if one has a strong opinion or belief they should stand by it no matter if anyone else believes them. I feel as if most of the men in this story really did not want to leave their families although the story portrays that all men were happy to serve their country and possibly lose their life. By O’Brien being one of the few men who risked losing everything to try and get out of going to war, when the majority of men went, that took way more courage to fight against the popular beliefs. I often think of the old saying “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” A saying that really gives you a sense of whether or not you are a leader or follower. For some the answer is no, because why risk your life for friends who are making poor decisions themselves. And for some the answer is yes, because many believe if my friend does it, I have to do it as well. Going against ideal beliefs is incredibly difficult and so much so that O’Brien was literally tormented by the idea of leaving due to social expulsion.

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