Metatextuality In How To Tell A True War Story By O Brien

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Throughout the book, O’Brien tells us events that he “experienced” in the war. However, in the chapter called “How to Tell a True War Story”, he explains how telling a “true” war story is impossible and how he actually lies to us while telling his stories. O’Brien uses lots of metatextuality, where he steps out of the frame and talks about his own piece, which helps him discuss the aspects of reality in his stories. It’s explained that in a war, it’s barely possible to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. Reality and surreality create a new form of truth together. “A true war story is never moral” (O’Brien 65). This is what O’Brien says, after telling war stories for six chapters. In his book, on the contrary to his opinion,…show more content…
Therefore, story-truth and actual-truth are indistinctive from each other. He supports it by saying “in any war story, but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen” (67). It’s explained that even if something didn’t happen, it may seem as it did. However, this doesn’t hinder O’Brien from telling detailed and vivid stories. Instead, he discusses the aspect of “reality” by using metatextuality. After he examines the truth, we as the reader learn to “be skeptical” (68) towards the story, because usually the extraordinary parts are real and the normal parts are made up and added to the story, in order to make it more believable (68). But the factuality of that truth is where the real question is being asked: what is reality? O’Brien discusses that reality is not an objective value and even what you see may not be real; “the angles of vision are skewed” our eyes don’t necessarily reflect purely what happened, and “the pictures get jumbled (68). So eventually, when you are telling your experiences from a war, what you think you saw is transferred to the reader, not what really happened. However, it’s not even possible to eliminate those distortion in your vision. So what is seen, despite its unclarity and vagueness, ultimately becomes the…show more content…
Or that O’Brien doesn’t have a daughter called Kathleen (Mehren)? Most of the readers have the feeling of betrayal when they figure out that certain things in the story aren’t real. This is because we, as the reader tend to create an emotional bond with the characters and their actions. That’s why, we want them to be “real”. However, in the chapter called “Notes”, O’Brien discusses the reason behind our emotional bond with the characters. He says “I want you to feel what I felt” (O’Brien 171), so it can be concluded that in order for us to understand and form bonds, it is a must for him to create some fictional characters. Because the true story and true characters neither fit the atmosphere of Vietnam nor the form of narrative. The best way for O’Brien to communicate with the reader is to tell the “story-truth” instead of the “happening-truth” (Shmoop Editorial Team). In substance, although we feel deceived when something comes out to be fiction, we would have never felt that emotional connection without the fiction, in other words, the “story-truth”. Shmoop says: “O'Brien's trying to tell us that even though they're made up, there's a lot of truth to their characters” (Shmoop Editorial Team). Even though the people and the names are not real, the characters and personalities are. Besides, the components of the piece which makes us connect with the story is not the names, the characters. Herewith, we shouldn’t
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