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Book Analysis

Is Tim O’Brien Criticizing Stereotypical Expectations Of Men? - Shreya Sachdev

In the chapter of The Dentist, the reader learns that Curt Lemon is afraid of going to the dentist, and this is an issue since there is a dentist coming in to check on all the soldiers. When the dentist calls for Curt Lemon to come inside the tent, Curt Lemon goes inside but then faints before the dentist can even touch him. Everyone finds out about this, and makes fun of Curt Lemon for fainting. Curt Lemon feels embarrassed so he goes into the tent later that night and demands for the dentist to pull a tooth out. The dentist tells him that he doesn’t see anything wrong with his teeth, but Curt Lemon still wants the dentist to pull one of his teeth out. I believe that the reason as to why Curt Lemon wants the dentist to pull his tooth out is so that he has evidence to show everyone who laughed at him that he was able to face his fears and that he isn’t afraid of going to the dentist anymore. The pulling of a tooth is quite a drastic action, and readers understand how Curt Lemon felt emasculated by his friends which is why he demanded the dentist to pull his tooth out.

Likewise, in “On The Rainy River” O’Brien explains to the reader how he did not want to go to war as he took a stand against it in college. He clearly does not want to fight in the war, but ultimately chooses to go since he is worried about what his friends, family, and town will think of him if he does not go. Therefore, the audience feels sympathy for him and believes that society shouldn’t expect men to go to war and be these masculine creatures if they don’t want to. By showing readers the paranoia and stress that O’Brien is going through, readers feel bad about the fact that he has to go just because society believes this is what a man’s job is. Thus, Tim O’Brien is clearly criticizing the stereotypical expectations of men and convincing the audience that men should not have to perform certain acts just because society expects them to.


Shreya Sachdev