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How To Tell A True War Story

How to Tell a True War Story

Paper Masters research papers on Tim O'Brien's short story entitled How to Tell A True War Story can be written from any aspect you wish and for any type of class you are assigned this work of literature for.

One way to focus your research paper for How To Tell A True War Story is to focus on the elements of each short story in the following ways:

  • The Setting in How to Tell A True War Story
  • The Narrator of How to Tell A True War Story
  • The Moral of How to Tell A True War Story

In six different ways, Tim O'Brien tells the story of how Curt Lemon was killed in the chapter entitled How to Tell a True War Story, from his book The Things They Carried. The device functions in the story use character description in a visceral way in order to make the reader feel a part of the story. It is not O'Brien's intention to simply tell a story, it is his goal that the reader know that "A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe". O'Brien's devise of placing the reader in the characters mind is done in three ways: by directly inviting the reader to believe; subtlety confusing the reader, just as the characters are; and finally admitting that the truth is just as real as the lies.

This essay brings to life the reality and raw detail of war. Several soldiers are crossing a river in Vietnam when one of the soldiers steps on a booby trapped artillery round and is blown into the trees, leaving his fellow comrades in shock and amazement.The story then moves to a scene in which several of the soldiers participate in a violent, savage killing of a young water buffalo. Twenty years later the narrator can still see the happenings as vividly as ever.

An Invite into a real War Story

From the very first line, O'Brien invites the reader into his story. The simple statement of "This is true" (75) encourages the reader to believe what is coming and sit back and listen. However, in the case of the story of Curt Lemon, O'Brien's presents many versions and the reader is lead to confusion of which is reality. By presenting many versions, the reader is forced to think about which one might be true. This engages the reader into the scene and brings a sense of realism when faced with the frustrating task of "overwhelming Ambiguity" (79).


The Setting

The setting greatly affects the story as it is within a foreign country in which a brutal war is being waged. The narrator talks about this location as a desolate place with a deserted village and river. The brutality of the war does not necessarily diminish the beauty of the country in its natural setting; in fact it may even heighten the beauty. The fog, the sunlight, the mountains, the rice paddies, and the river are all mentioned and somehow, in their natural beauty, may seem to balance the grotesqueness of war.

The Narrator

The narrator could be described as a man with a mission. One who not only wants to get his story across to the reader but also wants to educate the reader on the right way to tell a true war story. He has a spiritual, contemplative side, expressed in the following two quotes. "For the common soldier, at least, war has the feel - the spiritual texture - of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent" (p. 5). "... you feel wonder and awe at the setting of the sun, and you are filled with a hard aching love for how the world could be, always should be, but now is not" (p. 5).

The Moral

The moral of the story might be this. Sometimes war may be a necessary evil and the participants in war should always continue to tell true war stories, those that are descriptive and graphic, so that others can understand the real impact of war. The truest moral statement of the narration may be within the final reminder by the narrator, "(War) It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen" (p. 6).

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