Premium Essay

How to Tell a War Story

In: Historical Events

Submitted By rburner11
Words 1771
Pages 8
Richie Burner
How to Tell a True War Story
26 February, 2013

If you don’t know how to analyze writing and don’t understand metaphoric speaking then this is not a story for you. O’Brien constantly goes against every Americans thoughts of a war story; he tells the reader that they’re all fake. O’Brien believes war stories don’t actually have to do with people do with heroic things, because every solider is a hero. The average person who was not in combat would not get a true war story because no one has experienced what soldier’s experience. They have seen things and felt things emotionally that no other person will ever see or feel. A ex soldier out look on life is completely different than your average person because they are use to different life style. So all this boils down to one thing, no one will ever understand soldier’s and O’Brien uses “How to Tell a True War Story” to prove this. Through out the story O’Brien talks to the reader as if they don’t know anything. Although he has to approach the reader like this so he can thoroughly explain his point. Since no one understands a soldier’s life he has to write this way, the misunderstanding of soldiers is proven within the first page of the story when rat explains his friend to his sister in a letter that he sent her. “ Stainless steel balls, Rat tells her. The guy was a little crazy, for sure, but crazy in a good way, a real daredevil, because he liked the challenge of it, he liked testing him self, just man against gook” (O’Brien 287). This is one solider explaining another solider to a person who is probably mourning her brother’s death. Im sure the sister of the solider does not want to hear how crazy he was and how he would volunteer for things no body wanted to do. You’re probably thinking well why not, at least she knows he was brave. True but also she is more worried about her brothers...

Similar Documents

Free Essay

How to Tell a War Story

...How to Tell a True War Story from The Things They Carried In a true war story, if there's a moral at all, it's like the thread that makes the cloth. You can't tease it out. You can't extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there's nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe "Oh." True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside. It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe. This one does it for me. I've told it before - many times, many versions - but here's what actually happened. We crossed that river and marched west into the mountains. On the third day, my friend Curt Lemon stepped on a boobytrapped artillery round. He was playing catch with Rat Kiley, laughing, and then he was dead. The trees were thick; it took nearly an hour to cut an LZ for the dustoff. Later, higher in the mountains, we came across a baby VC water buffalo. What it was doing there I don't know - no farms, no paddies - but we chased it down and, got a rope around it and led it along to a deserted village where we set up for the night. After supper Rat Kiley went over and stroked its nose. He opened up a can of C rations, pork and beans, but the baby......

Words: 2159 - Pages: 9

Premium Essay

How to Tell a True War Story

...Brianne ENGL 1126 Summary of How to Tell a True War Story How to Tell a True War Story is written by Tim O’Brien. It is set in Vietnam between the years of nineteen fifty-four and nineteen seventy-five. In this section, the story starts out by talking about a man named Rat Kiley. Kiley is writing a letter to a friend’s sister telling her how good of a man he really was. He also writes about different stories that happened and how he was the first to volunteer for things, just to emphasize the greatness of this man. The sister of the deceased man does not write back to Rat Kiley which greatly upsets him. The story goes on to identify the man as Curt Lemon. Eventually, it is clear how Lemon died. Kiley and Lemon were tossing a grenade back and forth to each other when suddenly Lemon ended up stepping into a booby trap. Another man in the military by the name of Mitchell Sanders tells O’brien a story to teach him lesson. The story is about two men who set out to the mountains on a mission. After a few days of living up there, the men hear strange noises. It gets worse and worse so they order that the land below them be attacked. They pack up their stuff and walk down the mountain. When they reach the bottom their commander asks them what they heard and the men reply with nothing. Sanders claims the moral of the story is that no one listens, you need to listen to the quiet. He goes on to say that the moral of a war story cannot be extracted without a deeper meaning......

Words: 565 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Structure Analysis on How to Tell a True War Story

...Analyses How to Tell a True War Story In “How to Tell a True War Story,” Tim O’Brien varies from a straight forward approach because of the horrifying contents of war. Instead, his approach is one of repetition, where he retells the death of Curt Lemon, but with different versions. He adopts this structure to make it more tolerable to his audience, express that true war stories never seem to have an end, and demonstrate how truths become contradictory. True war stories by nature are so gruesome and devastating, that the author has to compromise its accuracy by inserting nonfactual, yet more palatable details to cause his listener to believe. The author supports this point when he says, “All you can do is tell it one more time, patiently, adding and subtracting, making up a few things to get to the real truth” (296). In another section he says, “Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness” (289). Interestingly, O’Brien reinforces this idea again with the example of the story that Mitchell Sanders tells. Sander says to him, “I got a confession to make… last night, man, I had to make up a few things… yeah, but listen, it’s still true…those six guys, they heard wicked sound out there…they heard sound you just plain won’t believe.” In those examples, we clearly observed how the author uses his peculiar structure to reveal the necessity to season war stories to......

Words: 643 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Ambiguity, Stories and Emotion someone who hasn’t experienced it in the way you have. Events affect people differently and without stories it would not be possible to even try and comprehend the pain of others. How a story is told changes the emotional response of the audience and with that their understanding of the events. Tim O’Brien explores the necessity of ambiguity between fact and fiction in order to create a visceral response to war in his short story “How To Tell A True War Story” which is a chapter in the novel The Things They Carried. O’Brien is able to examine this more thoroughly through the use of irony in title, the narrator’s internal conflict with truth and fiction, juxtaposition of writing styles and the nature motif. Margaret Atwood also investigates how real stories are portrayed in her poem “It Is Dangerous To Read Newspapers” by utilizing juxtaposition. Internal conflict is the basis of this entire story; O’Brien is struggling with how to tell his story and whether the things he experienced really are true to others. The style of this piece is similar to that of a debate with the evidence, or war story, being presented and then explained as to why it is correct. The critical essay “Metafiction in The Things They Carried” also references this writing style: “By defining a war story so broadly, O'Brien writes more stories, interspersing the definitions with examples from the war to illustrate them” (Calloway 4). Calloway says that this effective in emphasizing the lack of......

Words: 1448 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

A True War Story

...Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” centers on the principle that a reader cannot always trust the narrator of a story to tell the truth. The reader can listen, but must never cease to analyze in order to decipher the truth in each story. In Tim O’Brien’s short story, his narrator is naturally accepted and assumed to be the author of the story. Through this narrator, a story of personal Vietnam War experiences unfolds. Because this appears to be true stories told by O’Brien, the reader is left to assume all the tales are true encounters when in fact, O’Brien mixes truth and fiction in order to make the story believable. It is important to remember that the soldier telling the war story can only relay the facts that he remembers from the event. He may be sincere in telling the events as he remembers, but not accurate in reporting the entirety of the historical picture.. The setting is the Vietnam War; a war filled with controversy, and soldiers and civilians struggling to make sense of it all. In the story, O’Brien creates a believable setting with believable characters. He describes a setting that one would expect to find in Vietnam: rugged terrain, foxholes, jungles and muddy rivers. He also uses the giant canopy of a tree (as one would expect in this area) to tell the details of the death of his friends, Lemon and Rat. Describing the smell of the moss, the white blossoms and the lack of sunlight allowed by the tree, O’Brien creates a soothing feeling...

Words: 1098 - Pages: 5

Free Essay

War Stories

...War Stories Earnest Hemingway and Tim O'Brien both draw from personal experiences in war to write “A Soldiers Home” and “How to Tell a True War Story”. The character Krebs in “Soldiers Home” and the narrator in “How to Tell a True War Story” both display the psychological and emotional tolls that war takes on those who have experienced it. Both of these stories give the reader a view of the experience of war from a soldier’s perspective. While Hemingway focuses the emotional apathy of Krebs, O'Brien's perspective is much more graphic and detailed, with strong descriptions of the scenery, the sights and sounds. The methods used by O'Brien and Hemingway vary, but the end results are similar. Both authors draw from personal experience from war to tell their stories and create the characters there in. In “Soldiers Home” Krebs has a hard time rejoining society. He feels out of touch and unappreciated. This is pointed out when Hemingway states “By the time Krebs returned to his home town in Oklahoma the greeting of heroes was over” (Hemingway 187). Krebs was unable to relate to the people in his home town, as most had already heard the war stories and “His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities. Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie, and after he had done this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about it” (Hemingway 187). The fact was that the truth was either too boring or too strange. The......

Words: 1176 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Critical Essay by Steven Kaplan

...and the political issues at stake there. The Vietnam War was in many ways a wild and terrible work of fiction written by some dangerous and frightening story tellers. First the United States decided what constituted good and evil, right and wrong, civilized and uncivilized, freedom and oppression for Vietnam, according to American standards; then it traveled the long physical distance to Vietnam and attempted to make its own notions about these things clear to the Vietnamese people—ultimately by brute, technological force. For the U.S. military and government, the Vietnam that they had in effect invented became fact. For the soldiers that the government then sent there, however, the facts that their government had created about who was the enemy, what were the issues, and how the war was to be won were quickly overshadowed by a world of uncertainty. Ultimately, trying to stay alive long enough to return home in one piece was the only thing that made any sense to them. As David Halberstam puts it in his novel, One Very Hot Day, the only fact of which an American soldier in Vietnam could be certain was that "yes was no longer yes, no was no longer no, maybe was more certainly maybe." Almost all of the literature on the war, both fictional and nonfictional, makes clear that the only certain thing during the Vietnam War was that nothing was certain. Philip Beidler has pointed out in an impressive study of the literature of that war that "most of the time in Vietnam, there were......

Words: 5116 - Pages: 21

Premium Essay


...and How to the War Story Told I decided to choose the “A Soldiers Home” by Ernest Hemingway and “How to tell a War story” by Tim Obrien. I will explain each story and how the story are very similar in theme. “How to Tell a True War Story” examines the complex relationship between the war experience and storytelling. It is told half from O’Brien’s role as a soldier, as a reprise of several old Vietnam stories, and half from his role as a storyteller, as a discourse on the art of storytelling. In Tim O'Brien's short story, "How to Tell a True War Story", Rat Kiley's friend is killed. He writes to his friend's sister and when no response is given, he becomes frustrated. Due to this frustration he calls her a "dumb cooze." Following this O'Brien argues that this is a true war story because it is not moral, never to believe a war story if it seems moral. Next the story jumps to a forest where men need to be quiet for weeks. After a period of time goes by they are no longer sane. They begin to hear noises that scare them, and when they cannot take the silence and the creepiness of the forest they return to camp. When question about their return, the men do not respond, their story is in their eyes and that is enough for anyone who knows that a true war story "never seems to end," it is continuous even after it is done being told. A true war story is also never moral and does not generalize. The truth is so hard to reach. A person can go looking for the moral of the story,......

Words: 867 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay


... Summer reading in class essay 1) O’Brien tells numerous stories from his past with the common factor of war or loss of loved ones. In the beginning of the story, O’Brien explains all the physical objects that the men carried during the war. He then moves on to several war stories, describing his experiences in Vietnam. These chapters present other intangible things that these soldiers also carried- such as Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s loneliness. In these first few chapters he also depicts the setting in Vietnam. In the fourth chapter, “On the Rainy River,” O’Brien gives readers a glimpse into his life before the war, and tells of his almost escape to Canada after being drafted. O’Brien then moves back into war stories telling of the man he killed to Henry Dobbins carrying pantyhose around his neck. These semi-true stories further illustrate the extra emotional baggage these soldiers carried. In the chapter “Speaking of Courage,” O’Brien tells a fictional story of Norman Bowker trying to communicate his post-war feelings, and in the next tribute explains his tribute to Norman Bowker (who committed suicide.) O’Brien then tells of his post war life and of his trip back to Vietnam with his own daughter. When O’Brien is finished with war anecdotes, he tells one final story of how when he was nine, the love of his life, Linda, passed away. This final story brings the book to end with O’Brien explaining how stories help him survive because they give him an illusion of......

Words: 516 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

They Things They Carried

...Norman Bowker and the Weight He Carried in Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried: a Work of Fiction The novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a series that talk about different experiences that soldiers went through during war the Vietnam War. In the 1960’s young men with no experience whatsoever were drafted and sent to fight a terrible war. The worst part of the war for most of these young soldiers was having to cope with the aftermath of all the terrible things they encountered. For example, before going to Vietnam, Norman Bowker had a normal life with his friends and family, but when he returns from Vietnam, he finds himself lost in his own town, his girlfriend married to someone else, one of his friends dead; he feels like a total stranger, and, as a result he is no longer able to call this place home. As can be seen in the chapter “Speaking of Courage” and in “Notes”, Norman Bowker is one of those soldiers who, even long after the war has ended, was never able to recover from the emotional burdens he carried. “Speaking of Courage” tells us the story from Norman Bowker’s point of view of Kiowa’s death in Vietnam. Because of the heavy rains, “the Song Tra Bong overflowed its banks and the land turned into a deep, thick muck for a quarter mile on either side”(136). One night the platoon had settled near the river. Soon they realized they had settled in a shit field, and later that night they took mortar fire. “The field just exploded. Rain and slop and......

Words: 1400 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Tim O' Brien Comparison

...the Vietnam War was happening which influenced his work. His most popular work is called “The Things They Carried” which is a book compiled of short stories about his experience in the Vietnam War. There are 6 of his short stories: The Things They Carried, Love, Spin, On The Rainy River, Enemies and Friends, How To Tell a True War Story which was published in 1990. His next popular work was “Going After Cacciato” which was written in 1978. The similarities in themes is that they are both surrounded by the idea of war. In “The Things They Carried,” there are psychological burdens from the war that follow these soldiers for the rest of their lives. O’Brien uses the title, “things they carried” to imply that the “things” the characters carry in these stories are both literal and figurative. While they all carry heavy physical loads, they also all carry heavy emotional loads, full of grief, fear, and love. In the novel “Going After Cacciato,” the theme is seen as having courage and taking control. Both of these themes from these two different books relate because the theme of control is a theme that subsumes and defines courage itself; therefore, courage in war requires self-control of body, senses, and emotions. Soldiers must have a lot of self-control in order to be in war because they must follow orders without questioning. In “The Things They Carried,” The main character is himself. Tim O’Brien is the narrator and the protagonist through the entire set of stories. He......

Words: 833 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

The Things They Carried

...What We Learn from “The Things They Carried” “War is a bitch” (O’Brien 30), said Azar, an American soldier who joined Vietnam War. War doesn’t bring anything good to anybody. It just creates sorrow and pains to people. In “The Things They Carried”, the author Tim O’Brien shows us a realistic picture of what the war in Vietnam was like. He demonstrates how brutal the war is and the horrible reality of death in war, and how soldiers deal with the pain. This novel should be on the reading selections of The Interpretation of Literature because as it is a novel composed of war stories, it brings some enlightening endeavor and educational experiences to make us understand more about the war. To make us have an objective perspective of what happened in Vietnam War in 1968, O’Brien let us know a little about each soldier and what they carried with them along with the war in the first chapter. The “things” that the soldiers carried were both literal and figurative. The soldiers carry out of necessity for survival, such as guns, helmets, and other forms of weaponry, as well as things they carry more out of habit. First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from Martha, a girl that he loved. “Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations, Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers”(2). O’Brien also describes specifically the weight of the item......

Words: 1333 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Soldiers Home

...the story, the reader can see how a soldier named Krebs tries to fit back into society after World War I. Krebs comes home with post-traumatic stress disorder and has troubles fitting back into society. Nobody understands what he is going through, not even his parents. He even has to lie about some of his stories from World War I to make them exciting, so people will want to listen to him. These and other issues are part of the plot of “Soldier’s Home.” Hemingway uses the literary elements of plot, characterization, tone, and irony to further develop the theme of a story involving the hardship he faces of finding a place. Many do not think Hemingway is a great American author, but one has to disagree because the plot of a “Soldier’s Home” shows what soldiers must endure when they get back home to America from World War I. The basic outline in the story is simple enough. It shows how a man named Krebs has come home from World War I to face an even greater challenge against not only himself but also against society. While fighting in the war, Krebs probably sees many of his friends die right beside him. This makes it extremely difficult for him to get close to anyone because he is in fear of him or her either leaving him or dying. Also, he is still a little shocked when he gets home. This gives him a numb feeling and then, as if those conflicting feelings are not hard enough, his mom adds more pressure by telling him he needs to settle down and get a job. She also tells......

Words: 1539 - Pages: 7

Free Essay


... One who wins must tell the story. Everyone who has won wars, or accomplishes mission, etc. always seems to tell the story. In a way where the teller most likely did not finish telling the truth about the story and or lied about their way on the journey. This is where the quote by Anatole France helps you understand the quote.” We have never heard of the devil’s side of the story. God wrote the entire book”. First of all, after looking at the quotation you can clearly say the meaning of the quote is winner’s get to tell the story and losers get to hear the winner’s side of the story. The first example is Iraq going head to head with the U.S. and eventually in the end the U.S. went on and won the war. The after math is the U.S. passed on and articulated their side of the story. This is why we never heard from a person in Iraq, side of the story. In addition the U.S. did not want to tell America, how they dropped food on the ground for the kids in Iraq to eat then the soldiers came and killed all of the kids. The people were afraid America would look at the soldiers in a different way. The army wants us to think that the U.S. soldiers are decent people but actually not. This is why certain countries don’t like the U.S. The recruiters don’t really tell you how messed up the U.S. soldiers are after coming from war. All they want is enough people to fight The final example of this quote is Moses and the Red Sea, as you may know the story from the bible. In the......

Words: 510 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Odyssey vs Ulysses

...Cox Mrs. Chrisman HUM 2103 April, 26 2014 Odyssey VS Ulysses The movies Odyssey and Ulysses tell a story based off of the poem the Iliad by homer. Odyssey was very captivating in the way that the story that was told it was more in depth compared to Ulysses. However, both movies tell a story of the same person and his journey back to Ithica after the Trojan War. Odysseus coming in lieu of the Greeks, and Ulysses from the Romans. The story is about Odysseus, King of Ithica and his wife Penelope; the Odyssey starts with the birth of Telemachus while the start of Ulyssescompelling story overall because, of the in-depth look it gives into the war Odysseus return to Ithica. The sound effects the two movie differ in these areas as well, they differ with the overall film quality. The films are the telling of an epic poem and they are quite old in the quality ratios. Where the films differ was with the sound effects and the film quality. The production of Ulysses was a much different that of Odyssey the video was much easier to watch. Some may agree that Odyssey was a better quality movie overall and they could potentially be correct, the sound effects are much better in odyssey. However, in Ulysses the movie had better, picture quality, and the sound that was record was greater quality and the film itself was a better quality. The two movie were, a great magnificent stories in the telling of the epic poem by Homer the two movies are, very compelling in several ways.......

Words: 823 - Pages: 4