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Describe the style and thesis in Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story."

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agnute | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 24, 2008 at 10:58 AM via web

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Describe the style and thesis in Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story."

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 22, 2010 at 5:38 AM (Answer #1)

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In Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story," O'Brien challenges the nature of truth and argues that the truth is often fictionalized to make it acceptable for both the speaker and the listener.  He uses elements of contradiction to suggest to the reader that events during war are often so outlandish that the speaker needs to alter the facts so that others accept them as truth.  O'Brien also suggests that people alter their own truths so that they can live with the horrors of war.  Throughout the text, O'Brien uses anecdotes to share war stories with the reader, and then in the following lines he says that the stories are not true which puts doubt in the reader's mind.  This story appears in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried which is supposed to be O'Brien's memoir of his time spent in the Vietnam War, but just as "How to Tell a True War Story" casts doubt in the mind of the reader, it casts a shadow of doubt over the entire book.  In the end, the reader is left questioning whether the truth of the story or the memory of the experience is the more important factor.

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