Fact Verses Fiction In O'brien's The Things They Carried

1500 words - 6 pages

Fact Verses Fiction in O'Brien's The Things They Carried

"The difference between fairy tales and war stories is that fairy tales begin with 'Once upon a time,' while war stories begin with 'Shit, I was there!'" (Lomperis 41). How does one tell a good war story? Is it important to be accurate to the events that took place? Does the reader need to trust the narrator? In The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien examines what it takes to tell a good war story. He uses his own experiences in Vietnam in conjunction with his imagination to weave together a series of short stories into a novel.

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".

A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit if rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil (O'Brien 68-69).

With this concept, we can assess and place value on the stories presented in The Things They Carried. Yet, it is still not that simple. The reader is continually challenged to question what is real and what is imagined. The evaluation of each narrator is constant. While the protagonist continues to remind the reader that you cannot believe everything as fact, the other narrators are not as straightforward. The death of Kiowa is one of many questionable stories presented in The Things They Carried. In the chapter "Speaking of Courage" Norman Bowker claims that he is responsible for his friend's death. However, in the chapter "In the Field" O'Brien places the blame on an unnamed young soldier who started the enemy attack by turning on his flashlight. Which story is true? Does it matter what is true? According to Jim Neilson, the story of Kiowa's death "evokes the notion that for the U.S. Vietnam was a quagmire; his drowning functions almost emblematically to suggest America's deepening entanglement in southeast Asia" (193). Whatever the meaning behind Kiowa's story, it certainly fits the requirements for a good war story: there is nothing redeemable in it. Maria Bonn sees the three stories about Kiowa's death ("Speaking of Courage," "Notes," and "In the Field") as exemplifying "O'Brien's relentless investigation of how to tell a true war story" (paragraph 39). When you look at all three of these chapters together you can see the progression from what is imagined to what is true or is it the other way around? With Tim O'Brien,...

Find Another Essay On Fact Verses Fiction in O'Brien's The Things They Carried

Coping Mechanisms in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

1616 words - 6 pages During the Vietnam war, soldiers were not exposed to the traditional coping mechanisms of our American society, as illustrated in Tim Obrien's The Things They Carried. These men were forced to discover and invent new ways to deal with the pressures of war, using only their resources while in the Vietnamese jungle. It was not possible for any soldier to carry many items or burdens with them, but if something was a necessity, a way was found

Decisions: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

1415 words - 6 pages Everyday individuals face decisions in which they must choose whether to do what is appealing to them or to choose a more suitable and compliable choice. In the fictional work of ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’ Brien, certain characters such as Tim O’ Brien himself must face decisions similar to these. The novel demonstrates that when an individual is faced with a decision in which there is a choice that he may have to conform, the

Coping with the Reality of Death Depicted in Tim O'Brien's Novel, The Things They Carried

910 words - 4 pages Death is one of life's most challenging obstacles. Tim O'Brien was exposed to more than his fair share of death. To manage the emotional stress, he developed methods of coping with the death in his life. O'Brien's novel, The Things They Carried, demonstrates his attempts to make death less real through psychotherapeutic tactics like telling stories about the dead as if they were living and conceiving the dead as items instead of people

Things They Carried Essay: Strength in The Things They Carried

981 words - 4 pages means to them. The point of this paper was to present two different arguments from two different readers. These points of view were both able to answer the question, was Jimmy Cross stronger at the beginning of the story or at the end of the story, in their own way. Work Cited O'Brien, Tim. "The Things They Carried." Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 2nd ed. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford, 2001. Pg. 392-405.  

The things they carried

563 words - 2 pages Chandy Thorn Thorn 1Cynde DelauderEnglish 11130 September 2014"In many respects, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried concerns the relationship between fiction and the narrator" (Friedlander 1). The story that O'Brien writes is not a true story, however he can relate to it because he was an active participant in Vietnam. Tim O'Brien wrote much more than a war time story. Tim O'Brien wrote a Story, of pain, hardship, love, and the heavy burdens

O'Brien's Things They Carried Essay: An American Nightmare

1475 words - 6 pages History has shaped every country and their people, in particular negative experiences like the Holocaust in Nazi-Germany or the Vietnam war, involving the United States in a grueling controversy from 1964 until 1975. The author Tim O'Brian confronts an American audience in his short stories "The Things They Carried" with the inhumane consequences of political and military power decisions by rewriting history from a subjective,individual point

The Things They Carried

755 words - 3 pages to aid in their struggle.Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried is a novel set during the Vietnamese War. The author and narrator, Tim O'Brien was drafted into the war and survived to tell about it. He wrote this story to "bring back life" to many who had died in the war, yet this is not entirely a true story. In fact, Tim O'Brien wrote this in a very unique style, one that conceals any truth among a great deal of fiction.Several times

The Things They Carried

1707 words - 7 pages )”. They also carried various things that they came upon that they thought could help them survive until tomorrow. The weight that the men carried was only partly physical, the mental and emotional ‘weight’ was almost as much to carry as the physical objects the men trudged with. In fact, the mental weight and the stress of having to maintain a facade that they were not afraid were the heaviest weighing upon the deepest parts of the soldiers

The Things They Carried

1581 words - 6 pages of a kind of gnomic wisdom which is peculiar to him as he attains an austerity of contemplation and a pared, spare strictness of language very unusual in poets of today."ReferencesKennedy, Gioia, X. (2012). The Literature Collection [VitalSouce bookshelf version].Retrieved from http://digitalbookshelf.southuniversity.edu/books/9781269582674/outline/20Clarke, M. T. (2013). "I feel close to myself": solipsism and us imperialism in Tim O'Brien's the things they carried. The Free Library. ,. Retrieved from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/%22I+feel+close+to+myself%22%3a+solipsism+and+us+imperialism+in+Tim...-a0334285262

"The Things They Carried"

2145 words - 9 pages : AnInternational Journal of the Humanities 11.1 (1999): 240. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.Tomlinson, David. "'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien". Zouch Magazine. Web. 11Nov. 2011.Heberle, Mark A. "A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam". Iowa City:University of Iowa Press, 2001. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.Smiley, Pamela. "The Role of the Ideal (Female) Reader in Tim O'Brien's The Things TheyCarried: Why Should Real Women Play?". The Massachusetts Review 43.4 (2002): 602. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

Relationship between Fiction and Reality Explored in The Things They Carried

1334 words - 5 pages Relationship between Fiction and Reality Explored in The Things They Carried       In many respects, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried concerns the relationship between fiction and the narrator. In this novel, O'Brien himself is the main character--he is a Vietnam veteran recounting his experiences during the war, as well as a writer who is examining the mechanics behind writing stories. These two aspects of the novel are

Similar Essays

O'brien's The Things They Carried Essay

1232 words - 5 pages O'Brien's The Things They Carried O’Connor remarks “The Things They Carried” is a short story that is written “as an experience not an abstraction” and that “the meaning has been embodied in it”. These quotations are truly pure in description and interpretation of the short story as the reader, must look beyond the crude physical properties of the objects and actions chronicled and focus more upon their hidden

Relationships In Tim O'brien's Things They Carried

1799 words - 7 pages Relationships in The Things They Carried The Things They Carried is a collection of stories about the Vietnam War, but in reality, the book centers around the relationships the men make, their connections to the world they left behind and the connections that they formed to Vietnam. The stories are not war stories, but stories about love, respect and the bonds made between men when they spend day after day fighting just to stay alive

Tim O'brien's "The Things They Carried".

783 words - 3 pages Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" (reprinted in Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs, Literature and an Introduction to Reading and Writing, Sixth edition. [Upper Saddle River and Prentice-Hall, 2001] 77-88) is centered on the realism of the types of things the soldiers in the Vietnam War carried. The realism of all the physical and emotional, tangible and intangible things they carried are vividly described throughout the entire story

Jimmy Cross’s Final Decision In O'brien's, The Things They Carried

946 words - 4 pages were at that point in time more important than his fantasy for Martha. The guilt of losing Lavender because of his love for Martha was Falling action which in turn led to the conclusion of the story. Works Cited O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried”. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 9nd ed. New York: Longman, 2005. Pgs 389-392 http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1117626/critical_analysis_of_tim_obriens_the.html