Setting Analysis of How to Tell a True War Story

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Setting Analysis of How to Tell a True War Story

By | April 2012
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Setting Analysis: How to Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien
Set in 1965-1974 era, “How to Tell a True War Story,” by Tim O’Brien utilizes reoccurring stories set throughout the jungles, mountains, and deserted villages in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Written in a meta-literary form, and based on what can be defined as a self-conscious work, O’Brien uses the art of story-telling with a keen sense of detail to insert the reader alongside for the dramatic beauty and inevitable hardship that comes with the perils of war. O’Brien creates setting with innate details that one would associate with Vietnam, rugged terrain, muddy rivers, jungles, foxholes and mountain ridges. To contrast the prevalent images associated with war, O’Brien brings in details that encompass beauty, this beauty can be seen through the descriptions of death, scenery, as well as the physicality of war itself. By creating the savage imagery of death, torture, insanity and loss of life, alongside with peace, beauty, and love, O’Brien ties emotions through contextual detail. He brings insight into a war that was typically viewed as a senseless war that people are unsure what to make of or how to deal with the soldiers that came home.

The description of setting varies in the stories O’Brien recalls, as well as the details vary as he retells each story differently. He consistently uses a particular sentence that remains the same throughout the story, “…in the morning we would cross the river and march west into the mountains” (p.545). This sentence and the repetition of it, creates an inevitable solidity that in spite of whatever tragedy takes place the soldiers were required to move forward, with whatever emotional baggage they may carry. A giant canopy of a tree is another detail that O’Brien emphasizes as he recounts the story of Rat and Lemon, leading to Lemons death. This tree gives no sunlight, the smell of the moss, the white blossoms, these details create a calming, soothing effect....