RWS 100 T/TH
Essay 3: O’Brien’s War
Telling a story is typically a way for a lesson or moral to be passed down from
generation to generation so that it will always be remembered.
Telling a war story,
however, is a way for an event to be remembered- to bring the past into the present-
without any lesson or reason.
In Tom O’Brien’s 1998 fiction short story, “How to Tell a
True War Story,” from his collection, The Things They Carried
, the qualities of a war
story are examined thoroughly by way of O’Brien telling one, a strategy that creates a
double analysis that digs deep at the meaning of ‘truth’ in war.
Anderson’s and Yusef Komunyakaa’s poems, “Infantry Assault” and “Facing It,”
respectively, exemplify many of the same qualities of a war story that O’Brien points at
in his argument.
In this essay, I will proceed to prove an ultimate truth that war is a
never-ending event once initiated, and that a true war story never has a lesson behind it, it
A war story is either a true account or an elaborate fabrication, plain and simple.
Distinguishing the difference between the two, however, is harder than it may seem.
Fortunately, however, Tim O’Brien lends a helping hand in “How to Tell a True War
A Purple Heart recipient himself as the result of his service during the Vietnam
War, O’Brien retells several stories, some he heard from others and some he supposedly
was a part of, to serve as a basis for comparison between fact and fiction.