A True War Story Essay

1098 words - 5 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

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...

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