Essay on In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien: Theme Analysis

Words: 2535
Pages: 11

Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods is centered around the mysterious disappearance of Kathy Wade. Mysterious is the key word, as throughout the novel O’Brien plays with the fine line between ambiguity and reality. Kathy’s husband John Wade, the main character, is a Vietnam veteran and former politician whose participation in the infamous Mai Lai Massacre caused his fall from grace. Following a landslide defeat in the congressional elections, Kathy and John retreat to solitude in an isolated cabin in the Minnesota woods. Here, O’Brien highlights the stress that secrecy has had on their relationship. During their retreat, Kathy disappears in the middle of the night. Their boat is missing, but there are no other clues. O’Brien does …show more content…
Many victims were raped or tortured. In every reference to the massacre in In the Lake of the Woods, O’Brien purposefully describes the bright sunlight that shone over Mai Lai on that day. “In the sunlight, which shifted from pink to purple, people were shot dead and carved up with knives and raped and sodomized and bayoneted and blown into scraps.” (200) Here, O’Brien reveals the brutal truth, which is fittingly accompanied with sunlight. John, however, being quite the Houdini, would of course try to avoid the truth. John’s interest in magic continued into his adulthood. At night, obviously when the sun was down, he would perform magic tricks for his fellow soldiers, who called him “Sorcerer.” In fact, very few of them actually knew his real name. Even though John was more of a bystander than a participant in the massacre, he still refused to face the truth, even when one of his friends in the war tries to convince him that they can tell their story without repercussions. John was horrified by the massacre, and once again the terror of discovery caused him to turn to secrecy even though he obviously knew the truth. “Pure wrongness, [John] knew. He could taste the sunlight. It had a rusty, metallic flavor, like nails on his tongue.” By describing the unfavorable taste of the sunlight, O’Brien demonstrates John’s negative view of