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

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What is a thesis for "How to Tell a True War Story"?

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Dolly Doyle eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The following lines are as close to a proper thesis as one can find in the text of "How to Tell a True War Story":

Happeningness is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

In brief, the core thesis of "How to Tell a True War Story" is that to emphasize the truth of a true story, one might have to embellish or fictionalize it a bit. This sounds contradictory, but Tim O'Brien explains that sometimes a one-hundred percent factual account of the story misses the experience of what it is like to be involved in combat.

A true war story also does not impart lessons to the reader. O'Brien claims that if a war story has a "moral," then its truth is questionable since virtue has nothing to do with war. He goes as far as to say that the idea that people behave themselves in a proper, virtuous way during war is "an old and terrible lie." In these cases, the story has been embellished too much, taking away credibility.

So, O'Brien is...

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