How to Tell a True War Story Questions and Answers
by Tim O’Brien

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Has O'Brien been successful in telling you a "true war story"? Why or why not?

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Robert C. Evans eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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O'Brien is successful in this piece and in much else that he writes because he knows how to use words very effectively. The phrasing here is direct, colloquial, intimate, familiar, and for all these reasons credible. The work conveys the complexities of war in a way that a much more elaborate style would fail to do. (It is hard to imagine Henry James writing an effective war story.) Simply as a stylistic tour de force, this is an effective story.

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lmetcalf eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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O'Brien certainly captures the horrors of war and makes his readers get at least a glimpse of what these soldiers had to endure during the Vietnam war.  The length of the first chapter and the tedium of the lists of the "things they carried" mimics the weight and tedium of their daily existence.  Was he 100%  telling the truth?  Maybe, maybe not, but it doesn't matter because he succeeds in making his audience feel it.  Whether the group actually killed the baby water buffalo or not doesn't matter -- that story captures the frustration and...

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