“Story Truth” and “Happening Truth” in the Things They Carried

1468 Words Jun 4th, 2011 6 Pages
The Things They Carried Analysis

“Story Truth” and “Happening Truth” in
The Things They Carried

Throughout The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien it is difficult to separate what is fictitious, and what is true. During the entire work there are two different “truths”, which are “story truth” and “happening truth”. “Happening truth” is the actual events that happen, and is the foundation or time line on which the story is built on. “Story truth” is the molding or re-shaping of the “happening truth” that allows the story to be believable and enjoyable. It is not easy to distinguish “happening truth” from “story truth”, and at times during the novel O’brien reveals which is which. On the other hand, when the reader is blind to
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Martha gave it to me herself’” (28). This makes the reader believe that the Tim O’brien who wrote the book is indeed the Tim O’brien that is in the book, therefore this must be a true story from his experiences in the Vietnam War. All the more, at the end of the chapter he even asks Jimmy Cross permission to write the book the reader is looking at right then and there, “At the end, though, as we were walking out to his car, I told him that I’d like to write a story about some of this…’Why not?’ he said…’Make me out to be a good guy, okay? Brave and handsome, all that stuff. Best platoon leader ever’” (29-30). Like stated before, it is nearly impossible for a blind reader to distinguish the “happening truth” from “story truth”, but it is possible that Tim O’brien and Jimmy Cross did in fact meet and talk for a day, but the honest facts may be twisted by “story truth”. For example, O’Brien may not remember his and Jimmy Cross’ conversation throughout that entire day in great detail; therefore he may have had to formulate and make up certain parts in order to fill in holes and perhaps make the interaction more interesting. The first three words of the chapter “How to Tell a True War Story” are, “This is true” (67). Although Tim O’Brien begins this chapter with such a bold and clear statement, throughout the chapter he has the reader thinking and confused when he contradicts himself by stating things such as, “In many cases a true war story cannot
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