The Valpo Core Reader


Katy Ross

Document Type

Life and Death Essay

Publication Date



In Tim O'Brien's book The Things They Carried we learn that, to him, the most cowardly thing to do is go off to fight in a war one does not believe in. This seems contradictory when we take into account the fact that O'Brien did indeed go off to war. However, O'Brien tells us that his reasons for going to war "had nothing to do with morality. Embarrassment, that's all it was" (O'Brien 59). Upon reading this passage for the first time, I didn't understand why O'Brien would "go to the war - (he) would kill and maybe die because (he) was embarrassed not to" (59). But after a closer examination and self-reflection, I wondered if I am not unlike O'Brien. Would I allow myself to be drafted into a war I didn't understand or agree with? Questions like these are always difficult to answer. Many times in life we get caught up in the what-ifs, but when your life is on the line, would you sacrifice it for the sake of saving face and not being labeled, "Traitor," "turncoat," or "pussy"(59)? O'Brien did.