The American Heritage Dictionary defines denial as; an unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings. All three of the main phrases of this definition of denial are constantly seen throughout the novel In the Lake of the Woods. "Painful realities, thoughts, or feelings", "refusal to acknowledge", and "defense mechanism" all pertain directly to the main character of the novel, as well as the way the book is written. For this reason, I feel that this definition of denial and the word denial itself perfectly illustrate the theme of Tim O'Brien's novel, "In the Lake of the Woods".
The main action takes place near the town of Angle Inlet on the shores of The Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. John Wade and his wife Kathy move to a cabin on the lake shortly after he is handed a landslide loss in a senatorial primary race. In the race, the main character, John Wade, was revealed to have participated in a massacre at the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It was also revealed that Wade later altered his military documents to show that he was never involved in the incident; this is the reason behind the landslide loss. After a week at the remote cabin, Wade's wife, Kathy, and the only boat at the cabin mysteriously disappear. Despite a massive search, no trace of Kathy or the boat is never found. More than a month later, John Wade heads out in a small boat to search for his lost wife and he too is never seen again.
Now that we have the main storyline, we can go deeper into the theme of the novel, denial. "Painful realities, thoughts, or feelings". This phrase is directly related to John Wade's experiences from his childhood and The Vietnam War. In his childhood years, John Wade definitely had some "painful realities" to deal with. In my opinion, the original source of Wade's emotional problems stem from his father. John's father was an alcoholic and verbally abusive towards him. A major...
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