A true war story blurs the line between fact and fiction, where it is neither true nor false at the same time. What is true and what is not depends on how much you believe it to be. In the chapter “How to Tell a True War Story” from the novel “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, the author provides various definitions to how the validity of a war story can be judged. The entire chapter is a collection of definitions that describe the various truths to what a true war story is. Unlike O’Brien, who is a novelist and storyteller, David Finkel, the author of “The Good Soldiers”, is a journalist whose job is to report the facts. Yet in the selection that we read, chapter nine, Finkel uses the convention of storytelling, which relies heavily on the stories the combat troops tell each other or him personally. Finkel attempts to give an unbiased view of the Iraq war through the stories of the soldiers but in doing so, Finkel forfeits the use of his own experiences and his own opinions. From O’Brien’s views on what a true war story is combined with my own definitions, I believe that Finkel provides a certain truth to his war stories but not the entire truth.
War makes you a man; war makes you dead. The truths are contradictory” (O’Brien 181). The violence that the narrator witnesses and inflicts is part of the reason why his testimonies conflict with each other. Furthermore, these violent experiences shift the truth of these experiences from the actual events that occurred and the “real” truth that is warped by the violence and jumbled memories. Vethuizen explains, “Seeking the truth about violent conflict also requires sufficient time to allow for the discovery of accurate explanations in the space where it happened, to evaluate, analyze, and reflect on all the perspectives and to judge where power relationships and continued strategic contests distort perspectives” (Vethuizen 22). Even as Vethuizen suggests that evaluating the truths told in a story is adjusted because of the violence reflected through their experiences. Even the violence can cause a silence that has no words to describe their story. Sanders tells the narrator, “But the guys don’t say zip. They just look at him for a while, sort of funnylike, sort of amazed, and the whole war is right there in that stare. It says everything you can’t ever say…because certain stories you don’t ever tell” (O’Brien
...ke the reader suffer, but to create recognition of the psychosis involved in co-existing with war.
O'Brien, Tim. If I Die in a Combat Zone. New York: Broadway Books, 1975.
Tim O'Brien is confused about the Vietnam War. He is getting drafted into it, but is also protesting it.
Tim O’Brien, when writing “Where Have You Gone Charming Billy?”, wanted his reader to understand many things about war. He wants us to understand how hard it is to get over killing someone and the emotions you have when you’re at war. Also, he wants us to know how alert and agile you have to be at all times.
In times of war, many men and women tend to forget or alter their memories. Thoughts became mixed up, the sense of time becomes delayed, and the telling of one man’s experience does not seem possibly true. In The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, O’Brien writes about realistic events that never truly happened to him while he was at war. Nevertheless, he goes on telling about in writing a war story, a person can never remember the full event or will change it in a way that is not true. War will bring the worst out in people, and often, many of the men and women who live through it, cannot tell the full tale.
Coming to terms with war and its moral consequences is burdensome. War is filled with death, pain, bullets. Tim O'Brien, a military veteran and author, believes that the “nightmare of Vietnam” was not the bullets and the bombs, but the failure of nerve and consciousness. I believe that the failure of consciousness means that you act before you think, as shown in Ambush and Of Mice and Men.
"How to Tell a True War Story" gives detailed insights on how difficult it must be to experience war, let alone rehash the memories once they have passed. War stories have been a part of many cultures since the beginning of time, in which the leaders and soldiers would regale their battles to earn status and glory among their people. He makes statements that the narrator is almost as important as the actual story itself as the narrator can change how we are effected by a story by changing the perception on what happened. There are also many references to death, which is an inevitable outcome of war. It is always an underlying circumstance but the matter in which it is relayed can determine how the listener feels. There are also different versions of truth, which he feels are all worth considering.
First, the reader must understand just what makes a good "war story". The protagonist of the novel, Tim O'Brien, gives us his interpretation of it in the chapter "How to Tell a True War Story".
War is an entity that not only physically tears apart soldiers and countries, but also a force that shatters soldiers and civilians psychologically. The arduous physical conditions, the close proximity to death, and the hysteria in difficult situations play on soldiers’ minds and slowly push them to a breaking point. In Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, we see the effects of war and the conditions of war as told by 2nd Lieutenant Philip Caputo. In the novel, we saw a steady buildup of anxiety and confusion as the soldiers were faced with an invisible enemy and struggled with the mixed signals from those in command. This steady buildup developed into a psychological degradation that converted the soldiers into cold killers who could not control their propensity to kill the Vietnamese, whether or not they were enemy forces. Such conditions forced soldiers into “untenable combat situations” where they acted ruthlessly under the duress. This hysteria was only amplified by the lies and confusing signals of those in command. As displayed by Philip Caputo, soldiers in this time were deeply affected by the war of attrition that was the Vietnam War. The mundane, strident battles sunk the soldiers into depression and forced them into a submissive hopelessness. This pushed the soldiers towards precarious combat situations and dampened their ability to utilize reason over savagery in combat. The lies and ambiguity of those in command and the psychological toll of the war forced the soldiers into indefensible situations and broke down their moral judgment.