Levels Of Truth In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien breaks down the border between fact and fiction as he articulates a credible collection of war stories. O’Brien takes the unique role in the novel as an imaginary character created from a blend of real and fabricated elements, but he still makes sure to elucidate that the novel is merely a work of his imagination. Nevertheless, this style of autobiographical fiction forces readers to question the fictional nature of the novel. O’Brien himself understands the blurred line separating fact from fiction, and he discusses the complex relationship between the two in his storytelling. By using varying levels of truth throughout the novel, O’Brien effectively persuades readers to accept his stories as factual. …show more content…
Tim O’Brien explores the nature of a war story and the reality held in fiction in The Things They Carried through varying levels of truth. A true war story does not contain a definitive truth; instead, it is constructed from a jumble of skewed visions and memories. It is this aspect of a war story that ultimately distorts the boundary separating fact from fiction. O’Brien categorizes the levels of truth used in stories into story-truth and happening-truth. Although happening-truth, the blunt actuality of the moment, is commonly accepted as the immutable definition of truth, O’Brien argues that story-truth can provide an even more comprehensive truth. The story-truth may not be exactly what happened, but it contains the more powerful emotional account of the event. In the novel, O’Brien employs story-truth in his writing when he tells the reader that he had once killed a Vietnamese soldier. He later revisits the story to clarify that he did not actually kill the soldier, but the story was a direct way to place the guilt and …show more content…
Fiction allows the writer to immortalize people through imagination and storytelling, and this is most evident in O’Brien’s portrayal of Linda in the novel. O’Brien clarifies, “I’m forty-three years old, and a writer now, and even still, right here, I keep dreaming Linda alive. . . They’re all dead. But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world” (O’Brien 212). O’Brien is able to momentarily revive Linda from the dead through his imagination and memories, and he is able to preserve her emotional spirit even after her physical death. This concept of preservation further extends to the creator of the fiction itself, and it allows him to preserve the intensity of his own emotions. This can be seen throughout the novel as O’Brien recounts fictional events to identify emotions, such as when he pegs his wartime guilt for the dead on a Vietnamese soldier in “The Man I Killed.” Fiction is also used in the novel by O’Brien and his fellow soldiers to revive fallen friends and to endure the gruesome realities of war. This is evident when the soldiers reminisce about Ted Lavender’s sedated attitude and keep him alive in memory by mimicking him after his death. Through this use of fantasy and imagination, they successfully preserve the memory of their

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