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How to Tell a True War Story

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Brendan Case

on 17 September 2012

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Transcript of How to Tell a True War Story

How to Tell a True War Story By Tim O'Brien Originally published in 1987 in Esquire, this haunting yet beautiful story was written by one of critics' highest acclaimed Vietnam war authors Summary This short story is about two young men who were friends of the narrator while they were all in the army, fighting in Vietnam. It is presented in a choppy mannor, bouncing between stories and O'Brien's reflections The narrator uses these characters and their stories as a basis to illustrate the atrocities of war and to challenge the definition of truth Introduction of Bob Kiley, or "Rat", and his letter to the sister of his dead best friend Mitchell Saunders tells story of 6-man patrol and the mountains Characters Narrator--a soldier in Vietnam who recounts the war stories of his companions and provides insight on the struggles of war and expressing the truths of war Bob Kiley--nicknamed Rat, he was the immature friend of the narrator and of Lemon. When Lemon died, Rat was the most deeply effected, taking his emotions out on others Rat and his friend, Lemon, were playing around before Lemon stepped on a trap and was killed What makes a true war story is the questions one asks afterward, not whether or not it happened Rat, haunted by the death of his friend, abuses and kills a baby buffalo War is death, but it is also pure and spiritual; it makes you appreciate life more 20 years later, the narrator's war stories are still with him, and though people don't understand why, he has to keep telling it Mitchell Saunders--a fellow soldier in the war who tells many stories. Tells O'Brien about the 6-man patrol and the fatass colonel who couldn't hear Curt Lemon--a playful and immature soldier who was Rat's best friend before he stepped on a booby trap and had to be scraped off a tree Themes and Ideas A war story is difficult to separate what really happened form what seemed to happen A true was story never seems to end. The moral is never quite clear, and its meaning is always hidden by other meanings Whether something occurred in reality, or was imagined in the mind, if it matters, it's true War stories are not about gore and fighting, but are about truth and memory. In Hemingway's short story "A Soldier's Home", the main character, Krebs, is a soldier returning from the war who finds it difficult to relate to the real world Krebs feels comfortable talking with other soldiers, because they understand what it was like. In this way, he is similar to O'Brien, who also has trouble relating to people who did not share his experiences Krebs does not like lying when he tells his stories, though O'Brien believes it is sometimes necessary Connections to "A Soldier's Home" Krebs vs. O'Brien O'Brien said war makes you dead. When Krebs returned from the war, he had no ambition, no life. The events in "Soldier's Home" is a good example of what O'Brien would call a true war story because though it may not all be true, it captures the effects of war on a soldier. Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet,
But the fruit of that poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet,
But the fruit of that poor lemon is impossible to eat.
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