This chapter begins with O’ Brian informing the reader of the importance of this letter

This chapter begins with O’ Brian informing the reader of the importance of this letter. He states that “This is a story i’ve never told before. Not to anyone. Not to my parents, not to my brother or sister, not even to my wife.” He informs the reader of its importance by letting them know that it’s so secretive and he is so ashamed of it he has never told anyone of this. The main themes in the chapter “On the Rainy River” are morality vs. pride. Tim O’ Brian has an internal struggle of whether he can go against his own personal morals of entering a war he does not believe in or face the embarrassment of fleeing which would be a direct hit at his pride because everyone around him would shame him. On the other hand he doesn’t believe he can do it morally because he doesn’t believe in this war and cant see himself killing for it. In the beginning of the story O’brian has just graduated college. Directly after he graduates he recieves a letter that he is being drafted into the vietnam war. He is very upset, he doesn’t fully understand the war and he doesn’t want to abandon the life he had waiting for him. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, president of the student body and he has a full ride for graduate school at Harvard University. Now he would have to join a war he didn’t believe in.
The Vietnam war was a 20 year fight between north and south Vietnam. No one was signing up for this war so the draft became necessary. As a result this was a extremely protested war and O’Brian was one of those who was against it. ” I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate, too everything. It couldn’t happen I was above it.” He was confused on why out of everyone that could have been picked he was chosen. “If they need some fresh bodies why not draft some back-to-the-stone-age hawke?” He does not wish to join the war out of the fear of killing his victims and but he knows if he runs away he will have to abandon everything.
He deal with this internal struggle over the summer while he works at a meatpacking plant in Worthington, Minnesota. His job consisted of him removing blood clots from the dead carcasses of the pigs with a large 80 pound water gun which was an imagery representation of what he would have to do in the war. He spends the rest of the summer working this low income job isolated from others constantly thinking about the decision that has to be made. He constantly thought of dying and eventually began seriously thinking about running away to canada. He knew he would get shamed for it but decides to fall into his fear. He drives on rainy river and eventually comes to a broken down fishing resort. The resort is mainly empty except for the owner a small bald man named Elroy Berdahl.
Elroy plays a huge part in O’brians realizations while on the U.S Canadian border. He plays as a sort of father figure while his thoughts bounce between the past and the present where he wishes he was able to thank him for everything he did.