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

2516 WordsJan 31, 201111 Pages
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…
John was terrified of discovering the truth about his father. O’Brien explained that for John, “[Knowing] is to be disappointed. To understand is to be betrayed.” (242) While hiding the truth was convenient for John, the secrets piled up and ultimately proved to be too much of a burden. For as hard as John tried to cover up the truth, he always knew about his father’s drinking. “That was the worst part. The secret drinking that wasn’t secret,” O’Brien explained. (66) When Paul hanged himself, however, John was finally able to face the truth. He was still a child, and at the funeral he continually screamed in front of the entire procession, finally relieving himself of the burden of years of secrecy. While the truth of Paul’s alcoholism was not pretty, and was certainly less convenient to face than simply ignoring it, it was a significant relief for John. His mother explained: “I hate to say it, but it was a relief to have him out of the house. John and I, we both adored the man, but suddenly all the tension was gone and we could have supper without sitting there on the edge of our seats.” (97) Throughout the rest of John’s life, a similar process of hiding the truth and ultimately accepting it would repeat. As he progressed to the next stage of his life, as a young adult serving in the Vietnam War, John would bear a secret much heavier than his father’s
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