A True War Story

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“Skewed Reality”: O’Brien’s Distortion of War and The Emphasis of Precious Life How do people simply remember significant events, such as death, in a lifetime? Do they recall it the way it truly really happened? Or, do people recall those memorable events how they wanted to remember them by? Tim O’Brien uses numerous examples in order to emphasize the contrasting differences between a true war story and an elaborate tale. O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” demonstrates the ability to distort the realities of war and how war itself, while placing a deep void in the soul, forces a human being to appreciate life more than ever before, as well as distinguishes between a true war story and an elaborate tale. It’s a story that differentiates between the truths of war stories. Experiencing war first-hand changes a man. Oftentimes it can create a false sense of reality when “it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen” (348). Many times, in war, the mind gives a man a false sense of reality creating “another ending” or a very different experience entirely. It’s apparent in the beginning of the story where the description of Curt’s death is slightly diluted. As the story progresses, Curt’s death becomes more and more detailed, filling the gaps of Rat’s memory. The reader is shown how “The pictures get jumbled;” and how “you tend to miss a lot” (348). O’Brien makes this clear through his several versions of Curt’s death and the experiences of comrades who had their own stories turn almost fictitious. A condition of the mind, where there’s a lack of correspondence between the way a stimulus is commonly perceived and the way an individual perceives it under given conditions, combat for example, is known as perceptual distortion. Many men during the Vietnam conflict, and every military conflict for that matter, unfortunately fell
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