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Our past paves the way for our future forever. Whether our past contains hidden skeletons in our closets or not, we cannot keep it a secret nor can we run from it for long. The truth always creeps up on those trying to conceal it. In the novel “In The Lake of the Woods” by Tim O’Brien, John Wade is living a life that is controlled by his past. The trauma that he has been through dictates how he lives his everyday life.
One day, John wakes up and notices that his wife Kathy missing. Although author Tim O’Brien gives the reader several ideas as to what might have happened to Kathy, he provides no ending to the story. However, John’s post traumatic stress disorder, perception of water, and his love of magic provide us with enough details suggesting that he himself murdered his wife.
John returns home from the Vietnam war forever different then when he had left.
The way in which he now acts eventually leads to the downfall of him and Kathy’s marriage. John suffers from a condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to a video created by the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, titled, “How PTSD affects the people you love,” multiple veterans were interviewed and discussed how their personal experiences with the disorder disrupted their relationships with their families. Michael J. Allen a husband of a PTSD victim explains an episode his wife had after returning home from war.
“To see your wife stare blankly at nothing and recall horrific acts of war really scared me” This is very similar to how Kathy must have felt after experiencing what life was now going to be like with PTSD effects inflicted on her husband. There was nothing that she would be able to do.
She felt hopeless and not to mention, scared. John had experienced severe trauma from witnessing deaths to even shooting his friend PFC Weatherby, to which he had later denied having any involvement in. From time to time he faced unwanted recollections of the war making his mental state alarmingly scary. His coping methods were anything but healthy. He convinces himself that, “Sorcerer could get away with murder. He believed it. After he’d shot PFC Weatherby—which was an accident, the purest reflex—he tricked himself into believing it hadn’t happened the way it happened. He pretended he wasn’t responsible; he pretended he couldn’t have done it and therefore hadn’t” (chapter 10)
This provides the audience with evidence supporting that John could have easily killed Kathy. If he was involved, he would have no issue erasing it from his mind and convincing himself that he had no involvement. In addition, soldiers who come home from war with PTSD who don’t seek treatment may pose a threat to people around them, especially those who they live with. Patience H.C Mason, a soldier in recovery from the war states, “Married veterans, or guys who married when they came back, had difficulties too. Waking up with your hands around your wife’s throat is frightening.” (chapter 16) We see personal evidence of violence like this when the night Kathy went missing and John was in a sleep like state walking around the house naked and pouring hot water onto all the plants to kill them , all while saying, “Kill Jesus.” He easily could have also poured that water over Kathy while she was asleep, killing her, getting rid of the evidence, then forcing himself to forget about it. It was a perfect plan.
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