The Truth Is In The Feelings

1177 words - 5 pages

According to it’s definition, a story is an account of past events. Stories are usually pretty accurate narratives that people tell for either for the entertainment of others or to help the storyteller cope with past events. It is often believed that when someone does not tell something exactly as it happened, they are lying. This is not necessarily true. The things we remember and the way we portray these memories are two completely different things. When we recollect memories and tell them to others, some parts are left out and others are added in. The heightened feelings that reemerge usually dictate which parts are included and which are omitted. The inclusion of some made-up parts help fill in gaps in the story, from either cloudy memories or the memory not being there in the first place. The parts that fail to be mentioned are usually not important to help the listener understand the feelings the storyteller is trying to portray to them. But in the end, the point of a story is to invite the listener into the memory of the storyteller and enable them to feel exactly what the storyteller felt. In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien uses a combination of “story-truths” and “happening-truths” to invite the listener into his memories and feelings evoked by his recollections of being a solider in the Vietnam War.
Throughout the novel, Tim O’Brien breaks out of the bounds of normal story telling. He often jumps around, changes what he already said, switches between first and third person narration, and even admits to a lying in previous sections. He’s not ashamed to admit the fabrication that is infused throughout the twenty-two short stories of The Things They Carried. Fabrication helps O’Brien tell the story more accurately then just stating what actually happened would. The way he writes reflects not exactly what happened, but exactly the way O’Brien felt during the time that the story was taking place. He does not necessarily admit what is true or false, which is left up for the reader to decipher. In the short story, “Good Form”, O’Brien explains his strategy of story telling. He says, “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why the story-truth is truer sometimes than the happening-truth” (page 171). He then admits to a lie he told in a previous story. In “The Man I Killed”, O’Brien told the story of when he killed a man on a trail near the village of My Khe. But in “Good Form”, O’Brien says this story was false and that he did not kill this man, but watched him die. He then explains the details that were true, such as the man’s jaw being in his throat, one eye shut, and the other looking like a star-shaped hole. He also explains that the feelings evoked by the story were true; he felt guilty, responsible, and blamed himself for the man’s death just for being present to watch him die. The feelings were conveyed to the reader better by the story told in “The Man I Killed” than they would have if O’Brien told what actually...

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