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The Things They Carried

by Tim O’Brien

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What narrative point of view is used in "Speaking of Courage" and what is a narrative point of view? 

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Narrative point of view refers to how the narrator (or person telling the story) is positioned in relation to the actual story itself. Narrative point of view is interesting to consider in The Things They Carried, as our narrator seems to be Tim O'Brien himself, recounting things that happened to him or his friends and comrades during and after the Vietnam War. Though the stories are sometimes far removed from O'Brien's personal experience (such as when he recounts a story he heard someone tell, which that person heard from a third person), the fact that the narrator claims to be the same person as the author suggests an authenticity and realism and allows the reader to consider O'Brien's life as part of the novel. 

In the story "Speaking of Courage," the narrative point of view is third person limited. The narrator is not a character in this particular story, and so uses third person pronouns (he, him, his) to talk about the story's protagonist, Norman Bowker. As narrator, he knows what Norman is thinking and feeling. This is interesting in this novel, because the narrator is not some outside character, but Bowker's friend (and author of the book) Tim O'Brien. Later in the book, O'Brien even talks about receiving a letter from Bowker asking him to write the story. By acting as narrator and character in his own book, O'Brien blurs the line between reality and fiction, contributing to a major thematic question of the novel: what is truth? 

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