Throughout the story “The Lives of the Dead”, O’Brien recalls his history with Linda, his first love. “[Linda] wore a new red cap…very unusual.” (217) O’Brien has no idea what is going on with Linda at this point in time, but the cap is clearly hiding the truth. It is not until later, when Nick Veenhof sneakily lifted off the cap that Linda’s head is revealed with “[a] smooth, pale, translucent white.” (222) The whiteness of Linda’s head seems to be in reference to a blank slate; the purity of Linda, but more so the truth. If O’Brien wrote that her head was tan or didn’t even refer to the nature of the color of her head, then we wouldn’t have read closely into this passage.
But if you continue reading, we come across this: “[t]here was a large Band-Aid at the back of her head” (222) which can be interpreted as covering up the remaining truth. From this moment on, we can assume that Linda has some sort of fatal disease and it is confirmed later in the chapter. But what we don’t know is how she got it, when she got it, why she got it (genetic or just random), or more importantly, what she is thinking throughout this process. This Band-Aid covers up the remaining answers we have from this point on about Linda. And since she does not speak because Timmy and Linda have a “pure knowing” (218) of each other, ...
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...rite about Linda to rid his memory of the horridness that she went through the day her cap was removed and the visual truth came out.
The truth is glorified and considered moral, but if we know that someone will not understand the truth (which happens in most cases), then we tend to bend it. But how flexible is the truth? The expression of stretching the truth is very relevant in Tim O’Brien’s case. In The Things They Carried, he knows the truth about his characters and his stories, but he stretches the truth continuously throughout his novel and especially with Linda in his dreams. He is not trying to deceive us. He is actually trying to do the opposite and try to get us to understand the truth, not so much know the truth. Understanding the truth is not overrated, it is just not fit for words or even expressions. The truth is not for anyone, but yourself.
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