Trauma is a many layered thing. There are many ways to cope with it, and many ways people can experience it. In war there is obviously a lot of suffering, and many ways to deal with the aftermath of being in war. In “How to Tell a True War Story” by Tim O’Brien, the narrator repeats the story of the death of one of his comrades several times within it, changing the details with each telling. This story is less about how to tell a war story, and more about how to cope with life after facing war and how to cope with death in war. In this story the narrator tells the story of the gruesome death of a fellow soldier, Curt Lemon. In the many tellings of the story it can be gathered that Lemon died by stepping on a boobytrap, while he was playing …show more content…
This is described in the story when the narrator states, “And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed” (3). It’s the idea of trying to find a truth, or some meaning behind this meaningless slaughter and killing that happened during the war. But with each telling it seems that the narrator might be stepping further from the truth and that this story should be questioned on its validity. As Rosemary King explains in her article, “On one hand, O 'Brien is asking how a listener can distinguish whether a story is a factual retelling of events; on the other he outlines "how to tell" a war story” (182). King is describing how O’Brien is saying it’s impossible to tell what is and isn’t factual in a war story, and how he is at the same time explaining how to tell a “true war story.” The narrator describes how point of these stories often doesn’t hit you till much later by stating, “Often in a true war story there is not even a point, or else the point doesn’t hit you until twenty years later, in your sleep, and you wake up and shake your wife and start telling the story to her, except when you get to the end you’ve forgotten the point again. And then for a long time you lie …show more content…
Ted Engelmann describes in his article “Who Are Our Fathers?” his own post-war experience, “I can honestly say that I was in an angry fog as a result of the war. I could function, but I had little direction or purpose. For several years I was very angry and could not talk to anyone about my feelings” (165). After experiencing combat there is a lot of trauma and ill effects to cope with. Furthermore, in order to cope with the ill-effects of the war Engelmann used the method of returning to Vietnam and photographing the places he had been. He describes how he felt once he left Vietnam for the final time after his last trip to take photographs by saying, “There was a quiet and empty space inside me where there once had been the nagging torment of my own war in Viet Nam. It was with me no more” (Engelmann 171). Once he had visited all the places he had once been and faced his old demons, he was able to walk away from the torment of the war. This is similar to the narrator’s method of telling and retelling, it is through facing the demons of his past that he is able to pass through the suffering and cope with it. Similar to how Engelmann describes life post-war, the narrator describes how it feels in war by stating, “For the common soldier, at least, war has the feel—the spiritual texture—of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent. There is no clarity. Everything swirls. The old
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Tim O’Brien discusses the characteristics of a true war story and how to distinguish a true story from the fake or made-up one in his essay, “How to Tell a True War Story.” He criticizes many aspects of storytelling and mentions the behavior of a true story. In addition to O’Brien’s theory on how to distinguish true vs false, Malcolm Gladwell also helps in differentiating the two by discussing the story about Bernie Goetz in his essay “The Power of Context.” Both the authors point out the main characteristics that needs to be noted in order to understand the difference between fact/ truth and belief/ cooked up story. Though O’Brien is very open about his arguments, Gladwell’s arguments are invisible to audience because he does not openly state
In Soldier from the War Returning, Thomas Childers writes that “a curious silence lingers over what for many was the last great battle of the war.” This final battle was the soldier’s return home. After World War II, veterans came back to the United States and struggled with stigmatized mental illnesses as well as financial and social issues. During the war, many soldiers struggled with mental health issues that persisted after they came home.
“This is true” is repeated throughout Tim O’Brien’s Narrative Nonfiction short story “How To Tell a True War Story” with even the title being ambiguous in itself and readers get the opportunity to walk in the shoes of the each person with a war story. The structure of the story starts off with Rat writing a letter to his dead friend meanwhile showing an example of how to tell a true war story. O’Brien states “If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth; if you don’t care for the truth, watch how you vote.” ( O’Brien 67). Throughout the story, multiple testimonies (snapshots) were told by the narrator making the story more credible since the narrator is not an actual character within the story, therefore being unable to create
In Jane Brody’s alarming article, “War Wounds That Time Alone Can’t Heal” Brody describes the intense and devastating pain some soldiers go through on a daily basis. These soldiers come home from a tragic time during war or, have vivid memories of unimaginable sufferings they began to experience in the battle field. As a result these soldiers suffer from, “emotional agony and self-destructive aftermath of moral injury…” (Brody). Moral injury has caused much emotional and physical pain for men and women from the war.
This quote epitomizes the trauma caused by war. O’Brien is trying to cope, mostly through writing these war stories but has yet to put it behind him. He feels guilt, grief, and responsibility, even making up possible scenarios about the life of the man he killed and the type of person he was. This
This gave readers a chance to witness how transgenerational trauma from WWII is still affecting people today. Having the author relate on a personal level for this subject made the essay an interesting read. Furthermore, the strengths lied within the interviews and quotes provided; these gave an in-depth meaning and example of how the trauma WWII varied by experience. As much strengths, this article has, it also provides just as many weaknesses. For one, the title of this article barely correlates to what the essay talks about.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in The Things They Carried During the turbulent times of the Vietnam War, thousands of young men entered the warzone and came face-to-face with unimaginable scenes of death, destruction, and turmoil. While some perished in the dense Asian jungles, others returned to American soil and were forced to confront their lingering combat trauma. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried provides distinct instances of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and reveals the psychological trauma felt by soldiers in the Vietnam War. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD for short, is the most common mental illness affecting soldiers both on and off the battlefield.
In The Field, a young soldier decides to show Kiowa a picture of his girlfriend. The young boy switched on his flashlight, and seconds later the field exploded around them. “Like murderer, the boy thought. The flashlight made it happen. Dumb and dangerous.
War stories are meant to be told, not to be recounted. They are not truthful retellings of an event, but tall tales bordering on fantasy, told as a form of escapism from the lifetime of war that the soldiers experience, even when the “real” war is long
He fought a war in Vietnam that he knew nothing about, all he knew was that, “Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons” (38). He realized that he put his life on the line for a war that is surrounded in controversy and questions. Through reading The Things They Carried, it was easy to feel connected to the characters; to feel their sorrow, confusion, and pain. O’Briens ability to make his readers feel as though they are actually there in the war zones with him is a unique ability that not every author possess.
Now the reader does not just gain war experience by reading stories concerning the experience of Tim O’Brien, the reader also lives a part of the war. The chaos adds a new and different dimension to the stories. Besides reading the experiences and imagining what it is like, the reader now as well feels how the chaos and uncertainty of war affect the brain, and how long the disturbance of not knowing what happened - even if the matter is fictional - can preside over the
The True Weight of War “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, brings to light the psychological impact of what soldiers go through during times of war. We learn that the effects of traumatic events weigh heavier on the minds of men than all of the provisions and equipment they shouldered. Wartime truly tests the human body and and mind, to the point where some men return home completely destroyed. Some soldiers have been driven to the point of mentally altering reality in order to survive day to day. An indefinite number of men became numb to the deaths of their comrades, and yet secretly desired to die and bring a conclusion to their misery.
War and its affinities have various emotional effects on different individuals, whether facing adversity within the war or when experiencing the psychological aftermath. Some people cave under the pressure when put in a situation where there is minimal hope or optimism. Two characters that experience
In the short story, “The Man I Killed,” O’Brien focuses on this to show that everyone fighting in a war has a story. He spends the story describing the man he killed and searching for justification of his actions. He carries around guilt with him because of it, and his fellow soldiers try to help him justify and come to terms with his action by saying things like, “You want to trade places with him? Turn it all upside down= you want that? I mean, be honest,” (126) and “Tim, it’s a war.
He has shown us a way to tell the story. According to him, a war story can never be reciprocated entirely later. You have to add up to your own into the mix. This story then also tells us, what not to do in a stereotypical war story. Every type of story comes with its bunch of packages, which we can’t ignore.