Document Type

Undergraduate Project

Publication Date



In lieu of an abstract, below is the essay's first paragraph.

Uncertainty is human. It is part of our nature. As unique individuals, we see the world differently than those around us, sometimes subtly; in other cases fundamentally, different. Uncertainty deals with the way we understand and interpret information; experiences, education, emotions, and biases affect comprehension. Uncertainty displays itself in the decision-making process. (Cohen 40) Humans react to provocations much differently than others. Decisions are based on the nature of these internal and external impressions. All warfare is uncertain because it is human based. As humans, it is our very nature that at once makes war both possible and unpredictable. Historian William Murray asserted, “3000 years of history underline that fog, friction, ambiguity, and uncertainty have always formed the underlying topography of war” (Owens 71). The gaps between likelihood and outcome support the existence of an unknown element in war. In the spring of 1968, Tim O’Brien graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The recent graduate learned that his degree would be used in the United States Army. O’Brien served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970 in 3rd Platoon; Company A, 5th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division. Following his tour of duty, O’Brien pursued a graduate degree from Harvard University. The veteran’s writing career started with an opportunity at the Washington Post, and commenced in 1973 with the release of If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me up and Ship Me Home. In this memoir, O’Brien wrote: “Can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories” (O’Brien). The first collection of war stories was followed by additional narratives illustrating O’Brien’s experiences in Vietnam. The uncertainty of war is illustrated with Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam narratives in four interactive contexts: interactions with ourselves, organizations, the enemy, and the external environment.


Paper and poster from Dr. Deborah Uman's English Senior Seminar course, Fall 2012.

Additional Files

Poster-Bailey.pdf (979 kB)