How to Tell a True Story by Tim O'Briean Essay

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The Vietnam War was the longest war in the United States history. Whether they volunteered or were drafted, one out of ten soldiers did not survive the war. With the average age of the men being just twenty-one, they were not grown up enough nor mature enough to deal with such tragedy, and grotesque, unspeakable encounters. During the span of the twenty-four years that the U.S. helped fight in the Vietnam War; 58,148 men and women died in action. Families, friends, and neighbors all fought for the same cause and each had their own story. Although some of the war stories sound similar, each holds a different meaning and the personal feelings of the individual.
War, no matter how long or brief, can have a tremendous impact upon a person’s
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The baby water buffalo story didn’t happen nor did the story about a soldier who throws his body on a grenade and does not manage to save his buddies. A baby water buffalo being tortured simply serves as a graphic method of portraying onto the readers how the young and immature Vietnam soldier handles the death of his dear friend. Rat Kiley hurt so much that he needed to hurt something back in order to portray his true feelings upon the audience and make them feel them as well. An image of this poor little suffering Viet Cong buffalo, that refuses to die, provides far more of a vivid testament to war than the hallow cry of “war is hell”. On the other hand, the story about the soldier and the grenade conveys the profound truth that heroism in battle does not always save lives. Sometimes it can even make things worse. Most people do not realize that the truth of a story does not lie in the details but rather in the gut reaction that you feel while listening to it.
O’Brien incorporates polysyndeton into his stories to create that gut reaction: a sense of sympathy for the soldiers fighting. He stresses the fact that the soldier’s youth hinders their ability to handle such tragic and difficult situations. O’Brien uses polysyndeton to emphasize the youth and immaturity of the men fighting in the war. Most men came into the war being just boys in their teens or early twenties. They were still children, students and boyfriends who spent their time

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