Uncertainty O’Brien uses the framework of a traditional thriller or mystery novel;however, contrary to the conventions of the genre, he denies the reader a final answer or a tidy solution to the mystery.
O’Brien uses some of the literary conventions of the mystery genre—such as the disappearance or murder of an important character—but then subverts the genre’s tenets for his own purposes.
Mature love includes trust, but John never trusts Kathy, and his lack of trust is rewarded byher betrayal.
One of the major themes in the novel is the idea of love and relationship.
While some soldiers enjoyed killing innocent people, other soldiers decided to keep themselves separated and to not participate in the massacre.
As the reader was able to see in John’s case, he was haunted by the deeds he had done and he even considered telling his superiors about what happened.John was always suspicious of Kathy and her sincerity so he began to spy on her even before they were officially in a relationship.After that, through manipulation, John controlled almost every aspect of Kathy’s life and he did everything he could to keep her beside him.In many ways, their relationship seems superficial and childish.They often talk about owning a Victorian house and having children, but these things never become reality.This type of relationship took its toll on Kathy who couldn’t take it anymore and ended up disappearing.It is implied that she either ran away alone or that she had a secret lover who helped her to disappear.For O’Brien, the working of the human heart is ultimatelyunknowable; the most profound mystery.The primary relationship in this novel is the marriage between John and Kathy Wade.He also undermines the value of certainty by indicating, through the trickster John Wade, that an illusion can easily appear to be truth.Mystery of the Human Heart At the center of this disturbing novel, O’Brien’s most significant theme remains the unknowable mystery of the human heart and the nature of love.