Summary Of 'How To Tell A True War Story'

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From the Revolutionary War and the beginning of America’s independence to the conflict we face today combatting terrorism, American civilians have been at war. In today’s society, war headlines our newspapers and is broadcasted and televised daily on the news for the world to see. Through the media, we Americans are placed into the shoes of a soldier’s daily life and are able to witness the experiences and firsthand accounts of what fighting on the front lines is like. Due to this, Americans have become immune to the troubles and violence of war we are shown by news anchors and told by journalists today and therefore neglect the long term effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder, defined as “a complex and chronic disorder caused by exposure…show more content…
In “How to Tell a True War Story,” isolation and alienation experienced by the troops portrays a message that in times of solitary, paranoia lurks into the minds of the sane. Tim O’Brien conveys to the reader an account experienced by fellow countryman, Mitchell Sanders. In the story, Tim O’Brien gives detail on an operation given to the company to establish a listening post within the Vietnamese jungle to uncover any enemy movement. On the assignment, soldiers are given the command to “lie down and wait and that 's all they do, nothing else, they lie there for seven straight days and just listen” (O’Brien 53). After a few days of silent seclusion have passed, the “[soldiers] lose it. They get on the radio and report enemy movement—a whole army, they say” (O’Brien 55). As an author, O’Brien had written the ordeal experienced by the troops to be a depiction of how isolation can result in a loss of sanity and a sensible state of mind. The experience Mitchell Sanders recalls reveals the power that silence can have over the imagination as well as the damage that can take place to a healthy conscience. After the soldiers return to the base, the soldiers on the assignment are unable to answer to their superior, instead “they just look at him for a while, sort of funny like, sort of amazed, and the whole war is right there in that stare. It says everything you can 't ever say. It says, man, you got wax in your ears. It says, poor bastard, you 'll never know—wrong frequency—you don 't even want to hear this. Then they salute the fucker and walk away, because certain stories you don 't ever tell,” (O’Brien 56) as a result of their loss of sanity and rational state of mind. The experience of the soldiers in “How to Tell a True War Story” illustrates an example of how events can affect the psyche and lead to long-term concerns of
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