"If I Die in a Combat Zone" is a personal memoir. In twenty-three brief chapters, Tim O'Brien recounts his experience as a young man drafted into military service during the Vietnam War. With thoughtfulness and insight, he illustrates his inner turmoil over his opposition to the war, and his struggle to decide whether or not to dodge the draft or to flee basic training. With the vulgar humor of a foot soldier, O'Brien brings to life the foxholes and night marches through the villages and minefields of Vietnam. He bares his soul in an examination of courage, justice, and the brutal behavior of infantrymen in the Vietnam War.
The memoir briefly recounts Tim O'Brien's childhood and education. This serves to help the reader understand what O'Brien stands to lose if he does not report for duty as called for by his country. The personal history also serves as...