Although this is not normally a literary term I pick up on, I thought that this chapter was full of an ongoing antithesis between Tim being brave and cowardly. For the first time, he really opens up about what emotions he felt when he got his draft letter and what was going through his mind at that age.
"I was bitter, sure. But it was so much more than that. The emotions went from outrage to terror to bewilderment to guilt to sorrow and then back again to outrage. I felt a sickness inside of me. Real disease." (page 43)
Allowing the reader to enter his thought process makes the story that much more realistic and meaningful. It makes me start to wonder what kind of emotions I would be feeling if I had just received a draft letter in the mail. My dad told me once that he had been lucky while in college and they hadn't drafted him at the time. Unfortunately, his brother wasn't so fortunate and got sent to Vietnam instead. Luckily he survived, but at times I've wondered if it would have been the same circumstance for my father. I consider it fortuitous that he never had to go.
I think Elroy Berdahl is a significant character in this novel. In my opinion, O'Brien probably would never have gone back to Minnesota if it weren't for his presence. He gave him the opportunity to leave his responsibility and allowed him to choose to stay. That way, Tim wouldn't spend his life wondering whether he should travel to Canada or not; he knew what his decision would be. The antithesis I found intriguing was when he came to his final decision.
"I would go to the war - I would kill and maybe die - because I was embarrassed not to." (page 57) And then once again later.
"I survived, but it's not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war." (page 58)
I thought that him going to war would make him decide that he was brave rather than a coward. However, since he wasn't going for the right reasons, I suppose he condemned himself as a coward thereafter.