A true War Story Essay

Submitted By wetherjc
Words: 877
Pages: 4

Tim O’Brien writes this narrative on war stories using his own personal history as a soldier in the Vietnam War. O’Brien makes several contradictions in the stories he writes, however he is using those contradictions in order to prove is primary statement of identifying the truth in a war story. There are 3 separate events, or war stories outlined in this story which O’Brien analyzes the difference between fact and truth in any war story which came out of the Vietnam war. First, O’Brien introduces his friend Curt Lemon. Lemon’s death is told several different ways however; one way is no truer than the next. O'Brien describes another time where 6 soldiers go on a 7-day Listening Patrol. Lastly, he describes his account of Rat Kiley brutally killing a baby water buffalo. Each one of these stories O’Brien explains which part of these stories are fact, and what is true.
O’Brien begins the story telling about his friend Rat Kiley. Rat loses his friend while on patrol through a trail junction to a booby-trapped 105 round. He describes the death of Rat’s friend Curt Lemon different ways. The first description of his death was very surreal, “and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him…” (O’Brien 270). This was a first-hand account of his death but did not go into much real detail of what actually happened. He tells the same story again but this time it was closer to what would’ve actually been reported to his commanding officer afterwards. “He was playing catch with Rat Kiley, laughing, and then he was dead.” (O’Brien 274) The third version of this story was more real. It has much more of the graphic detail of the events following Lemon’s death. “I remember the white bone of an arm… The gore was horrible,” (O’Brien 276) Each one of these stories tells the same story in three very different ways. None of the stories are contradictory to each other, which makes each story just as true as the previous one. The language that Tim O’Brien uses throughout this story is not your typical academic or even politically correct language, which you read in your Sunday paper. This is necessary to establish his credibility as a Vietnam War soldier. As he mentions, “Send guys to war, they come back talking dirty.” (O’Brien 270) O’Brien intentionally uses this language to help the reader, who may or may not have similar experiences of military service, to understand how soldiers talk and think in combat. “If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth;” (O’Brien 270) Tim O’Brien is explaining what a real war story is really about. Language matters in telling a story. So if you are going to read a story about Vietnam, you should expect to be offended or shocked by the use of foul language and inappropriate racial slurs in the story. There is no purpose to sharing a story about a baby water buffalo, which they come across on patrol. Except to give the reader the same feelings that were felt by these soldiers after they have just lost a friend to a land mine. Normally, reading about people torturing and killing innocent animals is not something anybody could just shrug off as nothing saying, “Well, that’s Nam,” (O’Brien 275) all rules are out when you