Essay on How to Tell a True Story by Tim O'Briean

Essay on How to Tell a True Story by Tim O'Briean

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The Vietnam War was the longest war in the United States history. Whether they volunteered or were drafted, one out of ten soldiers did not survive the war. With the average age of the men being just twenty-one, they were not grown up enough nor mature enough to deal with such tragedy, and grotesque, unspeakable encounters. During the span of the twenty-four years that the U.S. helped fight in the Vietnam War; 58,148 men and women died in action. Families, friends, and neighbors all fought for the same cause and each had their own story. Although some of the war stories sound similar, each holds a different meaning and the personal feelings of the individual.
War, no matter how long or brief, can have a tremendous impact upon a person’s life because “what happens in combat can be grotesque, absurd, senseless and transcendent, sometimes all at once” (SCOTT). Surrounded by all the blood, tragedy and loss; a true war story does not involve courage and heroism but it contains the reality of misplaced anger and the inability of the soldiers to cope with their feelings and such horrible experiences they have encountered during the war. In “How to Tell a True War Story,” Tim O’Brien applies rhetorical devices to his war stories, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction in order to effectively tell a “true war story” while portraying the treachery of war.
Throughout the chapter, the distinction between truth and fiction constantly becomes blurred. With each story told how a soldier perceived it to have happened rather than how it actually happened; Tim O’Brien “underscores the importance of manipulating what actually happened to get at the essence of truth” (King). O’Brien uses hyperboles to exaggerate the war and the soldier’s...


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...ce that O’Brien uses, he creates the same effect. Whether through the use of hyperboles, polysyndeton or anecdotes; the treachery of war and its effect on the soldiers both mentally and physically become portrayed upon the audience. O’Brien effectively shows the reader “how to tell a true war story” through the different stories of the soldiers. It is explained that the true story does not lie behind the facts of what actually happened but behind what each soldier felt and what seemed to have happened.



Works Cited

King, Rosemary. “O’Brien’s HOW TO TELL A TRUE WAR STORY.” Explicator 57.3 (1999):182 Reader’s Guide Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson).Web. 4 Feb. 2014
O’Brien, Tim. “How to Tell a True War Story.” The Things They Carried. New York: Mariner, 2009. Print
SCOTT, A.O.. "Voicing Vietnam." Sunday Book Review. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.

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