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The Theme of Courage in “On The Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien and “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich Essay

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Updated: Oct 31st, 2021

Introduction

The topic of this very essay is such an abstract but, at the same time, very specific concept as courage. It has been studied by a lot of scientists and literary creators. The former explored the psychological aspect of the issue, the latter pondered on the human and spiritual sides of it. What we are going to consider in this essay is the concept of courage as reflected in the literature, namely in two short stories by famous modern authors. These stories are “On The Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien and “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich. We are going to see the embodiments of courage, or its absence, using the examples from the two stories. To be more specific, the consideration of actions and motivations of the protagonists of the stories so that to see what courage meant to them and to the authors (Clarke, 2003).

Discussion

The first story, “On The Rainy River”, is a rather skillful peace of psychological writing and concepts of fear and courage are described in it with the true-to-life effect. The main hero, who is, at the same time, the author of the work, is a young man living in 1960s. The main problem of the story is that this man has to go to war in Vietnam but has no whish to do it. Moreover, he is afraid of a lot of thing connected with the war – blood, dirt, killing and death: “Beyond all this, or at the very center, was the raw fact of terror. I did not want to die. Not ever. But certainly not then, not there, not in a wrong war.” (O’Brien, 1990, p. 3) The concept of courage that was a usual thing for the man in an ordinary life, disappeared suddenly as soon as the situation demanded its presence:” 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. It dispensed with all those bothersome little acts of daily courage; it offered hope and grace to the repetitive coward; it justified the past while amortizing the future.” (O’Brien, p.1)Thoughts of an untimely death were terrifying. The man thought with a pity about all the things that he could not finish and about all the prospects he had and that were destroyed by that war. But at the same time, courage fought inside the man with his cowardice and finally won the battle. The man initially decided to run away from war to Canada but stopped at the last moment crossing the Rainy River to return and demonstrate his courage. He was regretting his being a coward but the only way to prove that he was not was to go to that war. Courage finally won, but the hero still can not forgive himself being a coward, at least for some time.

As for the second story under consideration, the concept of courage is much more hidden here. “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich is a different story and presents no inner conflict between courage and cowardice. The concept of courage can be seen in this story in the life of Henry Lamartine and his brother Lyman. When they were together no idea of cowardice was familiar to them, but everything changed after Henry returned from the Vietnamese war (Clarke, 2003). Courage of his disappeared and he could not communicate with other people in a usual manner and he became reserved. And to a great extent, cowardice made him change, the cowardice he came to know about during the war. Although his brother tried to bring him back to reality all he could say was: “I know it. I can’t help it. It’s no use.” (Erdrich, 2001, p. 12) But Henry managed to regain courage, although some people can call it another manifestation of cowardice. He stepped into the river and stayed there until the current took him to its depth. Thus, courage and cowardice demonstrated their close interrelation in the life of every ordinary person.

Works Cited

Clarke, M.B. & Clarke, A. G. Retellings: A Thematic Literature Anthology. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 1 edition, 2003.

Erdrich, L. The Red Convertible. Penguin Books: New York, 2001.

O’Brien, T. On The Rainy River. Authors House: New York, 1990.

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IvyPanda. "The Theme of Courage in “On The Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien and “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich." October 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-courage-in-on-the-rainy-river-by-tim-obrien-and-the-red-convertible-by-louise-erdrich/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Theme of Courage in “On The Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien and “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich." October 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-courage-in-on-the-rainy-river-by-tim-obrien-and-the-red-convertible-by-louise-erdrich/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Theme of Courage in “On The Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien and “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich'. 31 October.

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