Truth In The Things They Carried Essay

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Redefining Truth in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried By: Rose Monahan May 2011 The Pennsylvania State University In an interview with Tobey C. Herzog, Tim O’Brien discussed the merits of truth by saying, “You have to understand about life itself. There is a truth as we live it; there is a truth as we tell it. Those two are not compatible all the time. There are times when the story truth can be truer, I think, than a happening truth” (120). Many literary scholars have struggled with the “truth” in one of O’Brien’s most famous works, The Things They Carried, a collection of twenty-two tales on the Vietnam War that stand alone just as strongly as they tie together. Although O’Brien is a Vietnam War veteran, unwillingly drafted in 1968 and serving until 1970, he purposively fictionalizes the war experience throughout The Things They Carried while simultaneously insisting that the essence of the work is true, a notion that many scholars question. Teasing out which experiences O’Brien describes are true, which are folklore, and which are imagination would be a near impossible task because…show more content…
By calling into question the truth of his stories, he disorients readers who are expecting to read a standard fiction, where the events are undoubtably false. He also shows readers why reinventing a story may be more important than telling the story just as it is remembered. Norman Bowker disapproves of O’Brien’s first attempt to describe a horrific battle, and, therefore, O’Brien feels the need to rewrite the story. Essentially, O’Brien must remember the event in a new way that makes the story more real for Bowker and other readers. Finally, O’Brien explains to readers why stories must be told, even with the risk telling the story the “wrong” way. He insists stories can bring people back to life or soften a difficult situation to mentally
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