Free Essay

A True War Story

In: English and Literature

Submitted By cwolfe
Words 1098
Pages 5
Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” centers on the principle that a reader cannot always trust the narrator of a story to tell the truth. The reader can listen, but must never cease to analyze in order to decipher the truth in each story. In Tim O’Brien’s short story, his narrator is naturally accepted and assumed to be the author of the story. Through this narrator, a story of personal Vietnam War experiences unfolds. Because this appears to be true stories told by O’Brien, the reader is left to assume all the tales are true encounters when in fact, O’Brien mixes truth and fiction in order to make the story believable. It is important to remember that the soldier telling the war story can only relay the facts that he remembers from the event. He may be sincere in telling the events as he remembers, but not accurate in reporting the entirety of the historical picture..
The setting is the Vietnam War; a war filled with controversy, and soldiers and civilians struggling to make sense of it all. In the story, O’Brien creates a believable setting with believable characters. He describes a setting that one would expect to find in Vietnam: rugged terrain, foxholes, jungles and muddy rivers. He also uses the giant canopy of a tree (as one would expect in this area) to tell the details of the death of his friends, Lemon and Rat. Describing the smell of the moss, the white blossoms and the lack of sunlight allowed by the tree, O’Brien creates a soothing feeling to a very tragic ending. Through this setting, readers are told of the cold, violent acts of war, but led to see them in a more comforting and natural setting. The accuracy of stories should be derived from facts and actual supported information. These facts should not be touched by opinion or attitude. However, this type of unbiased reporting is nearly impossible for the soldiers telling the stories.
The use of irony is prevalent throughout the story. The simple statement found throughout the story, “This is true”, reminds the reader that what one perceives as a truth may not always in actuality be true. As we read this story, O’Brien tells of many incidences that occurred during war. War is a very violent time. Truths are often altered due to the human brain’s perception of the events. The narrator of the story tends to tell the truth; however, this truth is relative to the narrator’s memory of the events. Rat’s death is told as the narrator wishes to remember it. Clearly his death was much more violent and tragic than the way it was described in the story. The irony of the story is that the narrator can only tell the parts of what he remembers from the story. The reader is left to fill in the gaps. The narrator’s brain will not allow him to fully recall what he really saw during the death of his friend. Throughout the story, he reminds the reader that sometimes the narrator has to tell a lie in order to make the story believable. The irony of it all is that many of the things the reader perceives as truths in the story may actually be fiction added to make the story believable.
The theme throughout this story is ambiguity. The narrator reminds the reader that the truth of a story is determined by the gut feeling of the reader. A reader should recognize a true story by the feeling one gets in their stomach. In this story, there are four different versions told of Curt Lemon’s death. The reader can determine the actual truth in the story by the feeling they get in their stomach. O’Brien tells the reader that many times the truth must be blended with more believable occurrences for the readers to connect with the story and actually take it for the truth. The narrator frequently reminds the reader of this fact. He suggests the grotesque and bizarre is actually the truth and the run-of-the-mill is that which is fabricated. The normal stuff is thrown in “to make you believe the truly incredible craziness” (556). War is a violent experience that forces the human brain to process the occurrences in a manner that allows it to be bearable. During war, soldiers are living on the edge of reality. Dying, survival, and desperation become a way of life. The soldiers must fabricate stories and memories which allow them to handle the many emotions they are bombarded with on a daily basis. It is through these memories that the stories are retold. In “How to Tell a True War Story” events are retold based on memories. This explains why the same story can be told in four different ways. The story of Curt Lemon’s death is retold four different ways in the story. Each time the reader must attempt to discover the true story of his death. Clearly Lemon met his death in a much different way than described by the author. The author indicated that the sun sucked him into a nearby tree. When in actuality, Lemon stepped on a landmine and was his body was blown up with pieces landing in an overhead tree. The narrator’s mind simply would not allow him to remember the death in this light.
This story, “How to Tell a True War Story”, reminds the reader of the struggles of war. It relates war stories in the way they are remembered by the soldiers. The reader is left with the feeling that there is no one truth to a war story. Each story is told with emotional and attached memories that are impossible to separate from the true actual facts. As the story is told, the audience hears the story and processes it with their mind. The narrator, however, tells the events filtered through his heart. This difference affects the perceptions of the truth and the response of the audience. It is impossible to disconnect the soldier from the personal ties to the story. There is a fine line between truth and fiction. O’Brien helps remind readers of the personal connections and reality found within each war story. He does not intend to “sugar coat” his war memories; however, human nature has a way of doing that without the story teller even being aware that it is occurring. Stories told by soldiers contain all the truths that their brains will allow them to remember. It is difficult and almost impossible to distinguish between the two.…...

Similar Documents

Free Essay

Super Sad True Love Story believe they are a step above “top of the food chain”. Finally, humans can get pleasure from watching the destruction of other life because the destruction reassures humans of their superiority complex. Although each has a unique setting, Super Sad True Love Story, “The People Pound”, and Heathers are all connected in their inherent values of life, each providing a satirical approach to biological elitism and proving the sadism of humanity. Biological elitism starts with the devaluing of other, inferior life forms, which leads to the construction of a biological dictatorship. In Hunter Breckonridge’s story, “The People Pound”, she satirizes the lack of value humans place on animals by paralleling animals with disabled humans, calling disabled humans “duds”. In her story, Gertrude is a middle-aged woman who received brain damage at her job. She is the first “dud” of many seen in the story. The term “dud”, is inherently condescending. It implies a lack of social value in the object. Breckonridge’s writes, “…she probably can’t think anymore. She’s just a dud” (Breck 2). Therefore, anything that cannot think is a “dud”. Although animals have survival intuition, they aren’t thought as having thoughts. Hence, “duds” in the story are just like animals. Breckonridge forces a realization that animals are too far devalued by putting human “duds” in the place of animals. In the film, Heathers, Veronica says, “All we want is to be treated like human beings, not to be experimented on...

Words: 1411 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

True Story

...The Blind side is a true story, which is also a sad story. It is about Michael Oher, who had a hard life growing up. He met up with a wealthy family who took him in and tried to give him a better life that he was given while growing up. Growing up in the projects in Memphis where this all took place was a hard thing for people to accept. The family made him like a son and protested one another which I don’t feel a lot of families do now a days. Certain people carry guns to protect themselves, and their family members and are part of the NRA. They showed how people in gangs would threaten other people and you need to know how to protect yourself in these types of situations. There were scenes where there were football games, and we were shown how he got to be on the football team. He had to get help with schoolwork so he could pass school. In one excellent scene, the breaking point of human nature is revealed. How far can one be pushed? We see how Michael reacts when taunted and teased mercilessly by a member of an opposing team. When Mike finally reaches his boiling point, he becomes a human bulldozer and physically bull dozes his tormentor off the field. I have experienced bullies in my past and can totally relate to Michael’s reaction. The result of Michael’s reaction helps him show the coaches what he is capable of doing on the field, and so it is a very positive outcome born from a negative start. This is a film about chance meetings. Michael needs to be......

Words: 466 - Pages: 2

Free Essay

Structure Analysis on How to Tell a True War Story

... How to Tell a True War Story In “How to Tell a True War Story,” Tim O’Brien varies from a straight forward approach because of the horrifying contents of war. Instead, his approach is one of repetition, where he retells the death of Curt Lemon, but with different versions. He adopts this structure to make it more tolerable to his audience, express that true war stories never seem to have an end, and demonstrate how truths become contradictory. True war stories by nature are so gruesome and devastating, that the author has to compromise its accuracy by inserting nonfactual, yet more palatable details to cause his listener to believe. The author supports this point when he says, “All you can do is tell it one more time, patiently, adding and subtracting, making up a few things to get to the real truth” (296). In another section he says, “Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness” (289). Interestingly, O’Brien reinforces this idea again with the example of the story that Mitchell Sanders tells. Sander says to him, “I got a confession to make… last night, man, I had to make up a few things… yeah, but listen, it’s still true…those six guys, they heard wicked sound out there…they heard sound you just plain won’t believe.” In those examples, we clearly observed how the author uses his peculiar structure to reveal the necessity to season war stories to transform......

Words: 643 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Stories and Consequences of War

...what a war really is or which consequences you may face when joining the army. There are two stories that help to explain what exactly you do in the army and the effects it has on you. One of the stories is "Soldier's Home" by Ernest Hemingway and the other one is "How to Tell a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien. Both stories have similarities and differences. They are told from different points of view and different situations. “Soldier’s Home” is mainly about a boy named Krebs. Krebs is a boy who enlisted in the Marines in 1917 and did not went back home until summer 1919. I think that Krebs is the way he is because he went away to war without being fully mature. He ended up growing up while in the war, away from his family and everyone he loved. He came home from war so much later because he did not want to face the changes that have happened in his town. I think he was scare to come home because war also changed his way of thinking. Krebs does not get involved with women once he's home because he does not want to work to get a girl. He thinks that American girls are too complicated and that he needs to go through many things to get one of them. He got used to the way European women were because without you talking to them, they would become your friend. Now, thanks to his mother's advice, he is thinking of becoming successful in live. Things like getting a job are rounding his mind. “How to Tell a True War Story” is about O’Brien’s own experience as a soldier and a story......

Words: 631 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

What’s the Use of Stories That Aren’t Even True?

...What’s the Use of Stories That Aren’t Even True? Fictional stories have been part of the human civilization since the beginning of time. Fictional stories play a huge role in many different cultures; it is a practice that goes back the human history. Ever since childhood we have been told stories through story books, picture, books, music, even the bible. Most of the time the characters, in story books, take the form of animals or inanimate objects. These stories are meant to entertain, influence, teach or even scare us. As children, these stories used to fascinate us and adults used it as a way to discourage us from deviant behaviors. When I was younger one of the folklore that used to be popular in my home country (Ghana) was “Anansesem” it simply means “spider tales”. It was a set of stories or fables about a trickster spider called Kwaku Ananse. Even though he is a spider, he appears like a man. In most of the stories, he tries to trick people for his own gain but his plans always backfires, mainly due to his own conceit, and when they do, he turns back into a spider and scurries up into the corner of a wall in shame. The adults usually told us these ananse stories to discourage us from doing stealing or lying etc. The stories were also a good way for us to socialize. All the kids in the area would come and sit around the adult telling the story; food will be made and passed around. After the stories, we will just be quiet in amazement or in fear, and then we will...

Words: 678 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

How to Tell a War Story

...Richie Burner ENWR-106 How to Tell a True War Story 26 February, 2013 If you don’t know how to analyze writing and don’t understand metaphoric speaking then this is not a story for you. O’Brien constantly goes against every Americans thoughts of a war story; he tells the reader that they’re all fake. O’Brien believes war stories don’t actually have to do with people do with heroic things, because every solider is a hero. The average person who was not in combat would not get a true war story because no one has experienced what soldier’s experience. They have seen things and felt things emotionally that no other person will ever see or feel. A ex soldier out look on life is completely different than your average person because they are use to different life style. So all this boils down to one thing, no one will ever understand soldier’s and O’Brien uses “How to Tell a True War Story” to prove this. Through out the story O’Brien talks to the reader as if they don’t know anything. Although he has to approach the reader like this so he can thoroughly explain his point. Since no one understands a soldier’s life he has to write this way, the misunderstanding of soldiers is proven within the first page of the story when rat explains his friend to his sister in a letter that he sent her. “ Stainless steel balls, Rat tells her. The guy was a little crazy, for sure, but crazy in a good way, a real daredevil, because he liked the challenge of it, he liked testing him self,......

Words: 1771 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

War (Short Story)

...Everyone makes mistakes whether the mistake is intentional or unintentional there is a lesson to be learned from every mistake, similar to what Timothy Findley portrayed in the short story “War”. In this short story there is a boy named Neil who is a young 10 year old visiting a friend, Arthur Robertson over the summer in Muskoka Ontario. Throughout the story Neil shares his experiences of 1940 he has when Neil’s father registers to join the army to fight in World War II. Throughout the story Neil questions himself about what he had done wrong that is making his father leave. Findley examines three different conflicts within the story in which the protagonist must overcome to completely understand why his father is leaving. The first conflict Neil overcomes his thoughts is Neil himself verses his own self-conscious, The second conflict Neil faces is when Neil verses society lastly the final conflict Neil overcomes is Neil verses his parents all of these conflicts help Neil overcome his feelings for his father’s departure. Findley’s short story “War” is about a depressed young boy whose father is being deployed to fight in the war. Findley shows a hidden relation along the lines of how Neil’s character development is shaped by conflicts in the story. Timothy Findley shows young Neil go through a series of events that help him overcome his feelings for his father. There are multiple ways that help Neil overcome the feelings that he has over his father joining the army. One...

Words: 1134 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

How to Tell a True War Story

...Tell a True War Story How to Tell a True War Story is written by Tim O’Brien. It is set in Vietnam between the years of nineteen fifty-four and nineteen seventy-five. In this section, the story starts out by talking about a man named Rat Kiley. Kiley is writing a letter to a friend’s sister telling her how good of a man he really was. He also writes about different stories that happened and how he was the first to volunteer for things, just to emphasize the greatness of this man. The sister of the deceased man does not write back to Rat Kiley which greatly upsets him. The story goes on to identify the man as Curt Lemon. Eventually, it is clear how Lemon died. Kiley and Lemon were tossing a grenade back and forth to each other when suddenly Lemon ended up stepping into a booby trap. Another man in the military by the name of Mitchell Sanders tells O’brien a story to teach him lesson. The story is about two men who set out to the mountains on a mission. After a few days of living up there, the men hear strange noises. It gets worse and worse so they order that the land below them be attacked. They pack up their stuff and walk down the mountain. When they reach the bottom their commander asks them what they heard and the men reply with nothing. Sanders claims the moral of the story is that no one listens, you need to listen to the quiet. He goes on to say that the moral of a war story cannot be extracted without a deeper meaning surfacing. The meaning behind the story is if......

Words: 565 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

How to Tell a War Story

...How to Tell a True War Story from The Things They Carried In a true war story, if there's a moral at all, it's like the thread that makes the cloth. You can't tease it out. You can't extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there's nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe "Oh." True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside. It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe. This one does it for me. I've told it before - many times, many versions - but here's what actually happened. We crossed that river and marched west into the mountains. On the third day, my friend Curt Lemon stepped on a boobytrapped artillery round. He was playing catch with Rat Kiley, laughing, and then he was dead. The trees were thick; it took nearly an hour to cut an LZ for the dustoff. Later, higher in the mountains, we came across a baby VC water buffalo. What it was doing there I don't know - no farms, no paddies - but we chased it down and, got a rope around it and led it along to a deserted village where we set up for the night. After supper Rat Kiley went over and stroked its nose. He opened up a can of C rations, pork and beans, but the baby......

Words: 2159 - Pages: 9

Free Essay

War Stories

...War Stories Earnest Hemingway and Tim O'Brien both draw from personal experiences in war to write “A Soldiers Home” and “How to Tell a True War Story”. The character Krebs in “Soldiers Home” and the narrator in “How to Tell a True War Story” both display the psychological and emotional tolls that war takes on those who have experienced it. Both of these stories give the reader a view of the experience of war from a soldier’s perspective. While Hemingway focuses the emotional apathy of Krebs, O'Brien's perspective is much more graphic and detailed, with strong descriptions of the scenery, the sights and sounds. The methods used by O'Brien and Hemingway vary, but the end results are similar. Both authors draw from personal experience from war to tell their stories and create the characters there in. In “Soldiers Home” Krebs has a hard time rejoining society. He feels out of touch and unappreciated. This is pointed out when Hemingway states “By the time Krebs returned to his home town in Oklahoma the greeting of heroes was over” (Hemingway 187). Krebs was unable to relate to the people in his home town, as most had already heard the war stories and “His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities. Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie, and after he had done this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about it” (Hemingway 187). The fact was that the truth was either too boring or too strange. The......

Words: 1176 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

America and the Great War - the Back Story

...head: America and the Great War America and the Great War – The Back Story Don Folk DeVry University Abstract World War I began in central Europe in June 1914. A great many factors, over the course of forty years, contributed to the start of this War, including nationalism, imperialism, militarism, as well as territorial and economic conflicts amongst various European powers. The culminating factor was the assassination of the Archduke of Austria Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie, at the hands of Gavrilo Princip, a Serb. Princip became a member of Major Tankosic's Black Hand partisan academy in 1912, but health issues kept him off-duty until June 28, 1914, when he assassinated Archduke Ferdinand (Brigham, 2010). America and the Great War – The Back Story Introduction World War I, the largest war to that date, was fought all around the world and left consequences that are still felt today. Communism was born when Russia fell, Central Europe fractured into a group of disparate nations, the fall of the Ottoman Empire gave rise to the Arab nations, and Nazi Germany was born of the ashes of the defeat of Germany (Askeda, 2011). The Rise of Pan-Slavism in Eastern Europe There was great tension between Austria-Hungary and Serbia in the early twentieth century, due in large part to the Pan-Slavic movement in Eastern Europe, which would ultimately lead to World War I. Prior to acquiring national identities after World War I, most central European and...

Words: 1855 - Pages: 8

Free Essay

Super Sad True Love Story

...Super Sad True Love Story, America, next to of course god america i, and I, Too, Sing America, are all story/poems that in some form or another address the theme of American exceptionalism and patriotism. In each of the titles, it is established that America is not as revered as it once was or possibly could be and that change needs to take place. Through dystopian tales, satirical speeches and exaggerated ideals the authors of these works of literature try to identify the issues faced in American society. Super Sad True Love story is a novel set in a futuristic world that portrays America as a dystopia. The conditions of the country are horrible; the dollar is extremely unstable, literacy has gone down the drain, privacy is virtually nonexistent and social networking has reached unthinkable extremes. Through these mediums Shteyngart reveals that patriotism is no longer about being proud but rather about surviving. Throughout the novel the state of the United States keeps deteriorating and none of the characters realize how bad it is. Lenny in the novel still holds love for America and hopes against all odds that it once again becomes a country to be admired as is seen in the lines below. “I took out my U.S. passport and held it in my hand, fingering its embossed golden eagle, still hoping it meant something. I remember how my parents would talk about the luck of their having left the Soviet Union for America. Oh God, I thought, let there still be such luck in this new world”...

Words: 1410 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

Based on a True Story

...Reading Response to Based on a True Story James Choung clearly writes how to improve our damaged world in his book Based on a True Story. Choung focuses on four actions that offer a solution to the disasters of the world that are parallel to the teachings of Christianity and the Bible. The first action Choung mentions is the fact that we are designed for good. The second is the notion that the world was destroyed by evil. The third idea Choung writes on is that the world was restored for the better. Finally, the last action is the concept that Christians were sent to heal the broken world. Choung analyzes each action by explaining three ways Christians are to react to each situation. Choung highlights the way we handle the world around us, the way we interact with other people, and our relationship with God. Choung excellently describes his main ideas and outlines them plainly in order for them to be readable. From the beginning, Choung identifies a central barrier in Christianity, which is that instead of Christianity being focused on “...getting into heaven”, it is about a revolution of love, service, and justice (Choung, 5). Because Choung identifies this from the outset, it is clear that his central argument is stating the solution in order to transform this damaged world. Another strong argument of Choung’s is his point on the removal of evil from the world after Jesus’ death. Choung states that all evil in the world and damage caused by us died when Jesus died. He......

Words: 637 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Dodge Ball: a True Underdog Story

...Dodge Ball: A True Underdog Story The movie is on the rivalry between the owners of Average Joe’s gym and Globo- Gym. Average Joe’s Gym is a small and financially unsuccessful gym with a handful of loyal members run by Peter. White the owner of Globo Gym a fitness guru he purchases the default mortgage of Average Joe’s Gym to build a parking lot. Peter has to raise $50,000 in thirty days to cover his mortgage. White’s attorney Kate he tries to charm her but instead she becomes friends with Peter while they try to go over his records. Peter goes to her house and sees she has weird obsession with unicorns all over her house. Average Joe’s employees Dwight and Owen and members Steve “The Pirate”, Justin, and Gorden try to raise money. Gorden tells them that they should enter a dogeball tournament in Las Vegas with a $50,000 prize. They form a team with Peter and watch a 1950 training video narrated by dodgeball legend “Patches” O’ Houlihan. Of course White has a hidden camera and forms his own team to go against them. His team is full of big athletic team where Peter’s is like a bunch of misfits and average guys. Of course Globo- Gym tries to scare Average Joe’s by his big players and lady with the big eyebrows. She knocks a guy out at the bar standing by the juke box drinking his drink. Peter’s team have to compete against a Girl Scout team to qualify, they lose but win by default because the girls came up positive for steroids. The legend “Patches” is now......

Words: 926 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

Major Conflicts in Murphy's "The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

...Major Conflicts in Murphy’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel Foreshadowing forces the reader to expect certain events to occur in a novel and therefore he/she continues to read. Louise Murphy’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel contains many examples of foreshadowing. It is a historical fiction novel based during World War II focusing mainly on the theme of survival. The major conflicts in the novel keep the reader interested because they foreshadow events that will harm the protagonists of the novel. Examples of major conflicts are; Hansel and Gretel are left alone to survive on their own, their father is unable to live with to live with himself because of the decision to leave his children to fend for themselves and the SS Oberführer of village Piaski is out to kill Hansel, Gretel and Magda in revenge of her niece running away from the village. The first major conflict of Hansel and Gretel forced to survive alone during the harsh winter season keeps the reader interested. This man versus man conflict keeps the reader interested because this novel takes place during the winter in a forest and in World War II. First of all, it is unsafe for Hansel and Gretel to be alone in the forest because of their being Jewish, for if they are seen by a Nazi they might be killed. As well it is unsafe for Hansel and Gretel to be fending for themselves during the winter season because it will be difficult for them to find food, shelter, to stay warm, or even stay alive, for example...

Words: 1085 - Pages: 5