SPOILER: Read the full story before continuing: (Opens in a new window).
The Raft is a short story about a little boy at his grandparents. His grandfather tells him a story, a story from the war (WW2 that is). He was in the Marine, he had the authority to make the decisions. One time they were patrolling the sea they came across a little boat with what appeared to be refugees, naked Japanese people. He, the grandfather, gave the clear to blow them up.
Although the boy had heard this story before (no one else had though), this time his grandfather told him while inside the closet. This time the closet worked as a confession box. The boy’s grandfather knew he’d done wrong.
They’d say it’s war. I won’t lie to you. It had zero to do with war and everything to do with the uniform I was wearing. Because my job was to make decisions. Besides, what the hell would I have done with a boatload of naked Japanese? There was a war on.”
This is the life for many people, they do things they really don’t want to do, they know it’s wrong, but their uniform decides. They have to do it because they’re expected to do so, despite the costs.
The story is told from the little boy’s view, but what’s different this time around is the fact that his grandfather tells it inside the closet.
I think the climax is where the grandfather doesn’t have any answers to his grandson on the reason why he gave the order he gave.
In the end the grandmother asks “Where’s the kid?”. That could be an ironic question, other than that I didn’t find any ironic sentences – maybe the last part of this quote:
“Listen, my job. Just because men like me made the world safe for men like your father to be cowards doesn’t mean you won’t ever blow up any civilians. Because you will. I do it once a week at the bank.”
Anyhow, there’s not much room for ironic sentences in a story about the second World War. The story’s themes in my opinion is: “the good vs. the bad”, “power of uniforms” & “War – glory, necessity, pain & tragedy”.