“Story Truth” and “Happening Truth” in
The Things They Carried
Throughout The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien it is difficult to separate what is fictitious, and what is true. During the entire work there are two different “truths”, which are “story truth” and “happening truth”. “Happening truth” is the actual events that happen, and is the foundation or time line on which the story is built on. “Story truth” is the molding or re-shaping of the “happening truth” that allows the story to be believable and enjoyable. It is not easy to distinguish “happening truth” from “story truth”, and at times during the novel O’brien reveals which is which. On the other hand, when the reader is blind to the truth, it is still possible to analyze his work and come to a diffident conclusion as to what is “happening truth” and what is “story truth”. “Happening truth” is the actual, factual occurrence of an event, but the real “happening truth” would mean nothing if it were not made believable, enjoyable and readable by applying “story truth”. A few chapters of the book stand out more than others when it comes to this concept of truth that Tim O’Brien tinkers with. These chapters include “Love”, “How to Tell a True War Story”, “The Man I Killed”, and “Good Form”.
“Love” is the second chapter of The Things They Carried, but it is the first chapter that the author Tim O’Brien begins to, in a way, harass the reader with this concept of “happening truth” and “story truth”. Tim O’brien and Jimmy Cross sit, talk, drink, smoke and reminisce about their times in the Vietnam War. At times Tim O’brien chimes in and begins to narrate, for example, “At one point, I remember, we paused over a snapshot of Ted Lavender, and after a while Jimmy rubbed his eyes and said he’d never forgiven himself for Lavender’s death” (27). At other times there is dialogue between O’brien and Cross such as, “’Remember this?’ he said. I nodded and told him...