The Things They Carried

What ultimately is the power of storytelling?

for the chapter "Good Form"

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In “Good Form,” the narrator steps back from the war stories and tells the reader concrete details about his own life. Tim O’Brien is 43 years old, he writes. O’Brien is a writer and a veteran of the Vietnam War. Everything else is invented, he says. O’Brien saw a young man die in Vietnam. The man’s eye became a star shaped hole, he writes. But O’Brien himself did not kill the man. Not having killed the man is the “happening-truth” writes O’Brien. Or perhaps he did kill the man. That is the “story-truth.”

Because of the difference between “story-truth” and “happening-truth", O'Brien can tell his daughter, Kathleen, with equal certainty that he has both killed someone and never killed anyone. Both are honest statements in his eyes.