A true writers writer, Tim O’Brien discusses the connection between truth and storytelling in his novel “The Things They Carried”. He uses stories to dabble on the fine line of what actually happened and what seemed to happen. O’Brien uses his stories not to relay details of a certain event, but rather to express the teeming emotions felt and attempt to keep lost ones alive.
A universal aspect of O’Brien’s stories is death. He speaks of his dead comrades to keep them alive, similar to how the soldiers shook the hands of the dead villagers to respect life after death. In the story ‘Speaking of Courage” O’Brien is able to recreate Norman Bowker in a light much brighter than the one in the YMCA Locker room. Only wanting to tell someone, “ how he was braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to”(147), Bowker teems of guilt for Kiowa’s death is given freedom from this guilt through the words of O’Brien. Guilt lingers on the shoulders of the soldiers that survived. In “The Man I Killed” O’Brien claims he killed an enemy soldier. Later he tells us he’s “left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief”(172). His responsibility is the same as with his comrades, to resurrect through stories, only this time it’s faceless. He imagines an entire childhood and background for the man, drawing somewhat on his own life. He does this because a part of him died with this man—the Tim before Vietnam, the Tim he indirectly describes in “The Man I Killed”.
In “Good Form” O’Brien states,” What stories can do, I guess, is make things present…I can make myself feel again”(172). O’Brien did not kill anyone. He was not the cause of any of his men’s deaths, but he was present. No one, but the men who were there, knows what actually happened. The reality, however, is irrelevant. O’Brien is simply telling stories he confesses are mostly untrue. It is that lack of actual truth and replacement of story truth that allows us to feel...
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