In chapter four of the book, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, there are important aspects such as masculinity and chauvinism that illustrate the larger theme of shame and guilt.
O’Brien’s attempt to escape the war was ceased when he realized it would be too embarrassing as a man with a reputation and pride. He let his manly pride and patriotism get the best of him and this prevented him from running away to Canada where he could stay safe and live a life free from war and death. One important aspect that contributes to the theme of shame and guilty is how men were portrayed in society back then. In the chapter, the author states “My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me,” convey how O’Brien allows his pride and fear of shame to force him into fighting in the Vietnam war. Men such as Tim O’Brien were expected to show their masculinity through their bravery to go to war with Vietnam.
If O’Brien had decided to run away, he would be reminded that people, such as close friends and family, would look down on him for being a coward and running away. Another important aspect that helped illustrate the larger theme was how people were portrayed to be chauvinists to their countries. In the chapter, the author states ” Right then, with the shore so close, I understood that I would not do what I should do. I would not swim away from my hometown and my country and my life. I would not be brave.
That old image of myself as a hero, as a man of conscience and courage, all that was just a threadbare pipe dream, which conveys that O’Brien strongly believed that he could not betray his country and that he would fight in the war for the sake of loyalty. There was a social pressure to fulfill his role as a citizen of his country and as a man that overtook his cowardness and fear. These aspects intertwine to create the larger theme of civil duty, pride for one’s country, shame, and embarrassment. When O’Brien sees the Canadian border, he then realizes that despite his cowardness he must live up to what society believes him to be.