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The Subjectivity of Storytelling - Essay Example

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The truth in every story is subject to what the storyteller conceives as true or not. Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam War veteran and author of the book “The Things They Carried” writes several short stories about the Alpha Company during the Vietnam War, including “How to Tell a True War Story” and “The Dentist”…
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Due to this, it is difficult for any reader to distinguish which among the stories are taken from real-life experiences, and which are products of the imagination. The result is a mixture of doubt, entertainment, and intrapersonal questioning towards any narrative included in the book, particularly when the characters involved contradict themselves in the different stories (Heberle 87-8). Mixing facts with fictions is the author’s way of expressing his concept of giving more weight to the act of storytelling than the objective truth it contains. It can therefore be said that the book is not written for the purpose of recounting wartime tales and historical events, but of exploring the ways of narrating stories about war that could either engage or put off readers. It makes readers realize that the subjective viewpoints of the soldiers, the impact that war have in their lives, and their emotional reactions towards different situations are more significant than focusing on the objective angles of the story (Heberle 219-21). How to Tell a True War Story This short story backs the very idea mentioned above. O’Brien talks about the ugliness of the war in such a reflective manner that it does not require explanations or factual details anymore. He begins the tale with the statement “This is true,” (Calloway 249) and even if this statement does not establish the narrative as factual, it makes readers understand that at least the idea is true especially for the one narrating the story. The subjective truth that O’Brien explores on is usually contrasting to the usual glorious and heroic tales associated with wars (King 182). For example, in this particular account, O’Brien talks about Kiley, a soldier who exerts effort to write to Lemon’s sister. Lemon is one of the members of the Alpha Company who died while playing with a smoke grenade (Calloway 249 and King 182). The usual heroic wartime tales would most likely involve a good exchange of letters between the soldier friend and the sister, trading good thoughts and sad memories shared before with the one who died. But in this tale, the sister never responds, and Kiley calls her “dumb cooze.” (Calloway 249) This paints a picture of ugliness in the circumstances surroundings these soldiers. However, this is the most significant aspect of O’Brien’s narrative. His tale does not try to provoke false sentiments among readers by sugarcoating events and words, but to expose the truth in the event. The story declares how storytelling should be done. There is both a correct and incorrect way to do it. The author dislikes telling stories in a tear-jerking fashion to create an emotional appeal. He also does not agree on its opposite of telling stories in a macho fashion. This particular narrative serves as a guide to the overall style used in the book. O’Brien shares to readers what he perceives to be true by making readers aware of the concept of subjective truth through telling stories that may or may not have actually happened. On a general view, O’Brien teaches the readers that aside from having correct and incorrect methods of telling tales, there are also correct and incorrect ways of perceiving these tales. On a deep political perspective, O’Brien teaches the readers to be aware of the fact that there will always be trustworthy and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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