Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In his 1895 play The Importance of Being Earnest, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once said that “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” While Wilde didn’t intend this to reflect war, it seems to perfectly encapsulate the splintered way in which truth arises from horrific circumstances. Approximately a century later, Tim O’Brien explores this concept in The Things They Carried, a collection of short stories about a platoon of soldiers in the Vietnam War, based upon his experiences as a soldier. Although he classified the book as fiction, his first-person narration as protagonist and the inclusion of real names builds a literary style which blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction, effectively strengthening his argument. While he admits…show more content…
He asserts, “Every goddamn detail—the mountains and the river and especially that poor dumb baby buffalo. None of it happened. None of it.” However, he quickly qualifies this statement by concluding that “even if it did happen..it happened in this little village on the Batangan Peninsula, and it was raining like crazy, and one night a guy named Stink Harris woke up screaming with a leech on his tongue.” Some may question O’Brien’s reasoning or even his sanity for discrediting one of his most poignant anecdotes, however; it’s for an important purpose - challenging his audience to reflect on his work in a way not typically done with war stories. Often times, war stories are either memoirs recounted by former veterans or those affected by war in their country, or they’re works of fiction. In these forms, it’s easy to dismiss the story without truly being being affected by it on account of it being make-believe or by simply accepting the position of the narrator in order to distance ourselves from the traumatic tales. However, O’Brien, as a former veteran, cannot simply distance himself from the trauma he experienced so he forbids his audience from doing so by blending truth with
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