How to Tell a True War Story
We have all heard the stories that our parents tell in order to prove a point. One example is the “I walked 10 miles over snowy hills to get to school” or one of my favorites, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” These stories or statements try to convey a truth. The only problem is that while a parent sees it one way, his or her child does not. Even if the parent had walked to school 10 miles over hills every day in snow or god-forbid had friends who jumped off cliffs, his or her child may not have the same experience. In short, a relationship to an experience affects what truth is seen by the listener and storyteller. In Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” he explores this notion extensively. When retelling a story, straight forwardness and honesty are often muddled. People tend to rely on inner experience rather than fact. This is seen with Rat Kiley, a friend of the narrator’s who was also fighting in Vietnam. Kiley had a friend named Curt Lemon who had died while on a mission. Kiley took it upon himself to write a letter to Lemon’s sister. While explaining to Lemon’s sister how he was really good friends with her brother, he only conveyed the good in their friendship and did not touch base on the bad (67-68). Also, when it comes to straightforwardness, a person can be sincere but not report the truth due to naivety or in order to try to get a deeper meaning. O’Brien states, “In any war story but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen” (71). The truth is not out in the open and is hidden. This in turn plays on the accuracy of an experience. When retelling an experience, the sequence of events has to be objective or have an unbiased view. Often unbiased or objective views can be lost. O’Brien uses the statement “true war story” throughout his essay. The use of the word “true” causes the essay to have a biased view. While...
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