How to Tell a True War Story Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 7 January 2017

How to Tell a True War Story

O’Briens “How to Tell a True War Story”, is a compilation of war stories and some experiences that men have had while away from home, at war during a battle. The theme of O’Briens short story is to always look at the positive side of all things that may happen in one’s life. There is a positive side in every single action that takes place in people’s lives. O’Brien tries to explain a war story as best as he can but, most believe that to actually know the events that happened and how gory or pleasant each little thing was, one must experience it themselves.

O’Brien’s objective is to prove to the audience that it is next to impossible to tell a “true” war story and be able to explain all of the details in which are seen throughout a war. In the story, the plot is not an easy one to follow. This is caused by the author putting multiple war stories into one complete story. The following quote is an example of O’Brien trying to express as many minor details as possible: “They carry the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment.”(O’Brien 1152)

This quote is a direct quote from a different short story pertaining to war. Obrien uses this type of writing to try and capture as many minor details as possible in the short story. In the story, this quote explains how every man away from at war is trying to mask their emotions as well as their fear of dying.

In the short story called “How to Tell a True War Story,” the narrator Tim O’Brien himself has a friend who went to war in Vietnam. His friend Curt Lemon, Tim O’Brien however does not return home to his friends and family after the war is over. In the story, there aren’t any morals. Most people believe war is an awful place and they are exactly correct. The theme of O’Briens short story, “How to Tell a True War Story,” is to always look at the positive side of things that happen in one’s life. It takes a true soldier who has been in Vietnam fighting in the war to take a positive look at the tings occurring in his life. Shortly after the death of Rat Kiley’s best friend, Curt Lemon writes a letter to Lemons sister, Kileys friend who recently passed: “He was a slim, dead, and almost dainty young man of about twenty. Hel lay with one leg bent beneath him, his jaw in his throat, his face neither expressive nor in expressive. One eye shut. The other was a shaped hole.” (O’Brien 1151)

This quote is some of the details in Rat Kileys letter to his dead friend and fellow solider, Curt Lemon. The audience expects the letter to be full of positive things because this is how Rat Kiley looked at certain things though his own eyes. The audience is led to believe that he constantly took a positive outlook in life, which is how all people should see things. Curt Lemon’s sister had no response to Rat’s letter home informing the family that their son had passed.

In “How to Tell a True War Story”, the plot is very hard to follow and to some the theme is hard to find as well. In the end, “How to Tell a True War Story” is a well written short story by O’Brien. One could take many life lessons from O’Brien’s work as well as get a little insight of what it might be like to serve for one’s country at war.

Free How to Tell a True War Story Essay Sample


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 January 2017

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