‘‘How to Tell a True War Story’’ is not a story in the traditional sense. It does not follow a straight, chronological path from start to finish. Rather, it is a collection of small stories interspersed with instructions about ‘‘true’’ war stories.
The story opens with the words, ‘‘This is true.’’ The narrator then goes on to tell the story of his friend Rat Kiley, who writes a letter to the sister of his buddy who had been killed a week earlier. It is a long, heartfelt letter. He waits for two months for a reply to the letter, but the sister never writes back.
The story then shifts to commentary. ‘‘A true war story is never moral,’’ the narrator instructs. The narrator asks the reader to ‘‘listen to Rat’’ as he spews obscenity, as, according to the narrator, a true war story is committed to ‘‘obscenity and evil.’’
In the next section, the narrator reveals that Curt Lemon is the buddy who was killed. Thus, this section actually occurred in time before the opening section. Curt and Rat are playing with smoke grenades when Curt trips a rigged 105 mm. artillery round. The narrator reports ‘‘It’s all exactly true.’’ The narrator provides a stunning visual description of Curt’s ascent into the trees as he is blown up.
Again the narration shifts to commentary. The narrator argues that it is difficult in true war stories to distinguish between what actually happened...
(The entire section is 899 words.)
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