Pamintuan O’Brien, author of “The Lives of the

Pamintuan 1

Kailii Pamintuan
Severin Allgood
ENGL 2201-304
September 14, 2018
Theme Analysis
Every person in the world has some concept of what love is and what they
imagine it to be. People grow up with these ideas of what love should be and carry them
into their relationships. Both Tim O’Brien, author of “The Lives of the Dead”, and David
Foster Wallace, author of “Good People”, explore the idea of love within their short
stories. The main characters of these stories have contrasting views on love and their
understandings of it. The authors use different writing techniques and literary devices to
develop these different ideas. Between the two stories a theme is then created which
shows how love comes in many shapes and forms and is not always easy to distinguish.
Tim O’Brien’s “The Lives of the Dead” approaches the idea of love with the story
of a childhood romance that the narrator always understood to be love. The main
character Tim O’Brien tells the story of his relationship with his first love Linda. He
begins describing his feelings: “Linda was nine then, as was I, but we were in love. And
it was real” (O’Brien 74). In this quote, O’Brien is exploring the idea of a juvenile
relationship being genuine love. By adding in the punctuation between the two sentences
O’Brien creates a dramatic effect emphasizing the seriousness in the narrator’s feelings
towards Linda. O’Brien also adds more depth and complexity to their relationship, by
simply having the narrator say, “we were in love.” If he had instead said I, it would have
been easier to dismiss this claim as a one-sided infatuation towards Linda. O’Brien

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Pamintuan 2

further builds this idea of a serious juvenile relationship by writing, “When I write about
her now, three decades later, it’s tempting to dismiss it as a crush, an infatuation of
childhood, but I know for a fact that the feelings we felt for each other were as deep and
rich as love can ever get” (O’Brien 74). O’Brien gives an even deeper value to the
narrator and Linda’s relationship here. When the narrator talks about his feelings towards
Linda as an adult, it makes his claim of having a real love for Linda much more credible.
O’Brien describes their love as deep and rich and explains that their love was not
infatuation. This use of diction is not that of a child, but of an adult. His choice of
wording indicates that the narrator’s feelings for Linda were mature and well understood.
The main character of “The Lives of the Dead” offers an opinion on love as being
something you can feel and understand well, regardless of age. Love is also a connection
that runs deeply between two people that is mutually felt.
David Foster Wallace’s “Good people” takes a different approach to the idea of
love by depicting a character who despite having been in an adult relationship with his
partner for a while, is still unsure of whether he loves her and what love itself is.
Throughout this story the main character, Lane A. Dean Jr. has an internal debate on how
to speak to his girlfriend Sheri about what to do with their unborn child. In this conflict
Lane becomes detached from Sheri claiming that it’s her decision to make alone. Not
only did he feel a lack of connection to her in this decision, but in general as well stating,
“He could look at her head, but not at her. Different parts of him felt unconnected to each
other” (Wallace 255). Lane and Sheri met in junior college, as young adults and then
began to date one another. The two have a presumably intimate with one another as well.
Despite the intimacy and maturity of this relationship, Lane explains how he does not feel

Pamintuan 3

close to Sheri. At this point in the story Lane does not define what they have in their
relationship as love. He cannot communicate his feelings to her properly, let alone even
look her in the eye. The characters have a large disconnect within their relationship. It
isn’t until further along in the story after Lane has had time for self-reflection that he
even begins to consider the possibility of loving Sheri:
There on the table, neither frozen nor yet moving, Lane Dean Jr., sees all this, and
is moved with pity, and also with something more, something without any name
he knows, that is given to him in the form of a question that never once in a long
week’s thinking and division had even so much as occurred—why is he so sure he
doesn’t love her? (Wallace 258)
In this section of the story Lane has a realization that he could indeed love Sheri but is
unaware of what love even feels like. This something more he describes is his possible
feelings of love that he does not understand, the feeling is foreign to him and he can’t
clearly identify it. Wallace created Lane to be a conflicted character unsure of his true
feelings to explore another side of understanding what love is. Lane’s understanding of
love is unsure despite being a young adult. His depiction of love is hard to grasp and
unfamiliar.
The two different writers create very opposite takes on what love is and how their
characters understand their relationships regarding love. O’Brien’s character is more sure
of himself and his feelings while Wallace’s characters is constantly conflicted and is
always second guessing his thoughts. O’Brien also has a more romanticized approach
towards defining his characters opinion on love while Wallace’s take on love is likely
more realistic. In “The Lives of the Dead” O’Brien writes, “It had all the shadings and

Pamintuan 4

complexities of mature adult love, and maybe more, because there were not yet words,
for it and because it was not yet fixed to comparisons or chronologies or the ways by
which adults measure such things. I just loved her” (O’Brien 74). Once again O’Brien
uses more complex and large words to describe the love felt between children. It is a
juvenile relationship with adult feelings. He uses a very poetic writing style to enhance
the feelings of a pure and true love. However, in “Good People” Wallace writes “Why is
one kind of love any different? What if he has no earthly idea what love is?” (Wallace
258). Wallace poses questions through his character about what love is. The character is
still conflicted in his emotions and is trying to understand them. While the main character
questions for himself this can provoke readers to question their own ideas of love as well.
When comparing Lane to Tim, Lane is an adult with a juvenile understanding of love.
Tim is sure he loves Linda despite losing her at a young age, and Lane is an adult who
questions his love for Sheri despite being intimate with her. These different characters’
understandings of love contrast one another creating a bigger picture of what love is.
Love is something that is experienced and understood differently by each unique
individual that exists. Not all people can identify feelings of love immediately. Both
authors take a very different approach in telling the stories of characters with contrasting
ideas and understandings of love. O’Brien takes a sentimental approach with a story of
young love the now adult narrator stills considers to be honest, true love. Wallace takes a
more guarded approach to love with the story of an adult man unsure of whether or not he
even loves his girlfriend, or knows what love actually is. “The Lives of the Dead” and
“Good People” both create one of a kind perspectives on the many ways love can be
interpreted.

Pamintuan 6

Works Cited
O’Brien, Tim. “The Lives of the Dead.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly
J. Mays. Las Vegas: University of Nevada, 2016. 72-83. Print
Foster Wallace, David. “Good People.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly
J. Mays. Las Vegas: University of Nevada, 2016. 253-258. Print

Pamintuan 1

Kailii Pamintuan
Severin Allgood
ENGL 2201-304
September 14, 2018
Theme Analysis
Every person in the world has some concept of what love is and what they
imagine it to be. People grow up with these ideas of what love should be and carry them
into their relationships. Both Tim O’Brien, author of “The Lives of the Dead”, and David
Foster Wallace, author of “Good People”, explore the idea of love within their short
stories. The main characters of these stories have contrasting views on love and their
understandings of it. The authors use different writing techniques and literary devices to
develop these different ideas. Between the two stories a theme is then created which
shows how love comes in many shapes and forms and is not always easy to distinguish.
Tim O’Brien’s “The Lives of the Dead” approaches the idea of love with the story
of a childhood romance that the narrator always understood to be love. The main
character Tim O’Brien tells the story of his relationship with his first love Linda. He
begins describing his feelings: “Linda was nine then, as was I, but we were in love. And
it was real” (O’Brien 74). In this quote, O’Brien is exploring the idea of a juvenile
relationship being genuine love. By adding in the punctuation between the two sentences
O’Brien creates a dramatic effect emphasizing the seriousness in the narrator’s feelings
towards Linda. O’Brien also adds more depth and complexity to their relationship, by
simply having the narrator say, “we were in love.” If he had instead said I, it would have
been easier to dismiss this claim as a one-sided infatuation towards Linda. O’Brien

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For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Pamintuan 2

further builds this idea of a serious juvenile relationship by writing, “When I write about
her now, three decades later, it’s tempting to dismiss it as a crush, an infatuation of
childhood, but I know for a fact that the feelings we felt for each other were as deep and
rich as love can ever get” (O’Brien 74). O’Brien gives an even deeper value to the
narrator and Linda’s relationship here. When the narrator talks about his feelings towards
Linda as an adult, it makes his claim of having a real love for Linda much more credible.
O’Brien describes their love as deep and rich and explains that their love was not
infatuation. This use of diction is not that of a child, but of an adult. His choice of
wording indicates that the narrator’s feelings for Linda were mature and well understood.
The main character of “The Lives of the Dead” offers an opinion on love as being
something you can feel and understand well, regardless of age. Love is also a connection
that runs deeply between two people that is mutually felt.
David Foster Wallace’s “Good people” takes a different approach to the idea of
love by depicting a character who despite having been in an adult relationship with his
partner for a while, is still unsure of whether he loves her and what love itself is.
Throughout this story the main character, Lane A. Dean Jr. has an internal debate on how
to speak to his girlfriend Sheri about what to do with their unborn child. In this conflict
Lane becomes detached from Sheri claiming that it’s her decision to make alone. Not
only did he feel a lack of connection to her in this decision, but in general as well stating,
“He could look at her head, but not at her. Different parts of him felt unconnected to each
other” (Wallace 255). Lane and Sheri met in junior college, as young adults and then
began to date one another. The two have a presumably intimate with one another as well.
Despite the intimacy and maturity of this relationship, Lane explains how he does not feel

Pamintuan 3

close to Sheri. At this point in the story Lane does not define what they have in their
relationship as love. He cannot communicate his feelings to her properly, let alone even
look her in the eye. The characters have a large disconnect within their relationship. It
isn’t until further along in the story after Lane has had time for self-reflection that he
even begins to consider the possibility of loving Sheri:
There on the table, neither frozen nor yet moving, Lane Dean Jr., sees all this, and
is moved with pity, and also with something more, something without any name
he knows, that is given to him in the form of a question that never once in a long
week’s thinking and division had even so much as occurred—why is he so sure he
doesn’t love her? (Wallace 258)
In this section of the story Lane has a realization that he could indeed love Sheri but is
unaware of what love even feels like. This something more he describes is his possible
feelings of love that he does not understand, the feeling is foreign to him and he can’t
clearly identify it. Wallace created Lane to be a conflicted character unsure of his true
feelings to explore another side of understanding what love is. Lane’s understanding of
love is unsure despite being a young adult. His depiction of love is hard to grasp and
unfamiliar.
The two different writers create very opposite takes on what love is and how their
characters understand their relationships regarding love. O’Brien’s character is more sure
of himself and his feelings while Wallace’s characters is constantly conflicted and is
always second guessing his thoughts. O’Brien also has a more romanticized approach
towards defining his characters opinion on love while Wallace’s take on love is likely
more realistic. In “The Lives of the Dead” O’Brien writes, “It had all the shadings and

Pamintuan 4

complexities of mature adult love, and maybe more, because there were not yet words,
for it and because it was not yet fixed to comparisons or chronologies or the ways by
which adults measure such things. I just loved her” (O’Brien 74). Once again O’Brien
uses more complex and large words to describe the love felt between children. It is a
juvenile relationship with adult feelings. He uses a very poetic writing style to enhance
the feelings of a pure and true love. However, in “Good People” Wallace writes “Why is
one kind of love any different? What if he has no earthly idea what love is?” (Wallace
258). Wallace poses questions through his character about what love is. The character is
still conflicted in his emotions and is trying to understand them. While the main character
questions for himself this can provoke readers to question their own ideas of love as well.
When comparing Lane to Tim, Lane is an adult with a juvenile understanding of love.
Tim is sure he loves Linda despite losing her at a young age, and Lane is an adult who
questions his love for Sheri despite being intimate with her. These different characters’
understandings of love contrast one another creating a bigger picture of what love is.
Love is something that is experienced and understood differently by each unique
individual that exists. Not all people can identify feelings of love immediately. Both
authors take a very different approach in telling the stories of characters with contrasting
ideas and understandings of love. O’Brien takes a sentimental approach with a story of
young love the now adult narrator stills considers to be honest, true love. Wallace takes a
more guarded approach to love with the story of an adult man unsure of whether or not he
even loves his girlfriend, or knows what love actually is. “The Lives of the Dead” and
“Good People” both create one of a kind perspectives on the many ways love can be
interpreted.

Pamintuan 6

Works Cited
O’Brien, Tim. “The Lives of the Dead.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly
J. Mays. Las Vegas: University of Nevada, 2016. 72-83. Print
Foster Wallace, David. “Good People.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly
J. Mays. Las Vegas: University of Nevada, 2016. 253-258. Print

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