How to Tell a True War Story Essay

821 WordsMay 10, 20134 Pages
In Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell a War Story, he describes the details of a true war story and how they can strike beautiful and dark feelings of depression and triumph in the pit of one’s soul. The beauty in the story comes from the detail and the reality of the images hitting your mind like a bullet hitting another bullet in mid flight. The darkness comes from the realization of the gut retching truth in the story. O’Brien explains to the reader that during war many things happen that are unexpected. With the sudden change of events, many thoughts and actions are faded the echoes of gunfire and the deafening explosions of grenades going off. A true war story, O’Brien explains, has an absolute duty to obscenity and evil that renders commonly held storytelling notions of courage and pride obsolete. In the beginning of the story you learn that Rat Kiley’s buddy Curt Lemon dies in Vietnam from a bobby-trap io5 while horsing around by playing catch, when they were on duty in the jungle. To this day, twenty years later narrator O’ Brien wakes up to the horrible gore of him and Norman Bowker picking up pieces of skin and bone in the tree that Curt was blown into from the land mine. A week later Rat Kiley sends a letter to Curt Lemon’s sister, extolling the virtues of his fellow soldier after his death, explaining what a hero her brother was and how much he loved him. We expected the death and the story to have a positive, heartwarming outcome. The essence of the true war story lies in the reality of the situation. The sister does not respond, and Kiley reacts immaturely. This irony makes sense, O’Brien contends, both because Kiley is young and because he has been exposed to such unspeakable things. Rat calls the sister a “dumb cooze” not because he is a misogynist but because it is his way of negotiating anger. Blame must be assigned, Kiley rationalizes in his anger, and

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