The Things They Carried

The Things That Matter: Tim O'Brien and Truthful Fiction 10th Grade

It is one of the greatest paradoxes in literature: a made-up story is more accurate than a factual story. Tim O’Brien sets out to prove this notion in The Things They Carried. This is a book of short stories, some of his personal war tales, some of his platoon-mates' rhetoric, and some from when he was not in combat. These selections all come with a degree of uncertainty, as the reader can never be sure if the narrator, Tim O’Brien, is the same person as the author, Tim O’Brien. One particular story, “How to Tell a True War Story,” is O’Brien's attempt to explain to the reader how facts might not always make a story accurate. The idea behind it is that Vietnam is a place where the line between reality and imagination is blurred. A soldier experiences things impossible to comprehend and, when that soldier returns home, the stories are difficult to recall. It is from here that the men begin to substitute missing details and become lenient towards the facts. Yet, it is no matter, because as any Vietnam veteran would vouch, details are only present to get the listener to pay attention to the underlying message. As exemplified by the stories within “How to Tell a True War Story,” Tim O’Brien could not have as effectively written his...

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