Ling AP Lit. and Comp. 2010-11 discussion

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What is Truth? > TTTC--True War Stories

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message 1: by Ilana (new)

Ilana | 24 comments "It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe" (O'Brien 78).
According to O'Brien, it's not the facts that matter to "true" war stories, it's how they make you feel. War stories are either second-or-thirdhand (e.g. the story of the patrol on LP that starts having auditory hallucinations)or eyewitness (except the problem is, at war, you can never really believe what you see with your own eyes, e.g. most of Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, from Rat Kiley's perspective). You can't figure out whether or not a story's truth through fact, you just have to trust your instinct.
So does this make TTTC a collection of true war stories? I don't know whether or not this was true for the rest of the class, but when I started reading the book (and didn't know it was fiction) I thought it was real, because it felt like a collection of real war stories.
What do you think?


message 2: by Ling (last edited Nov 27, 2010 09:41PM) (new)

Ling Zhang | 20 comments I agree with you, TTTC definitely feels like a true war story. Even though I am fully aware of the fact that it is fiction, I still have a feeling that this book is very real.

TTTC contains true war stories that never end, each story by itself picks up at a random point, ends at a random point. What makes them real is that they "never seem to end" (O'Brien 76). Because O'Brien went through the war himself, the whole book is realistic, his use of O'Brien as a character makes it even more so. Because they are "true war stories," I don't think it matters that the book itself is fictional; It still has the same impact on the readers, it's "a true war story that never happened" (84).


message 3: by Randie (new)

Randie (randiead) | 22 comments What O'Brien means when he calls one of his stories "a true war story that never happened" (84) is that although that story might be fictional, it could've happened to any soldier during any war, but the effect is still there. As Ilana mentioned, a true war story is not necessarily based on fact. What matters is how story made the reader feel. For instance, the story about Norman and Kiowa in the "shit field" might be fiction. However, even with the knowledge that this story didn't happen, I still felt Norman's loss. The failure Norman felt after Kiowa drowned to his death in the field is still powerful, fiction or not.


message 4: by Hillary (new)

Hillary (hillaryschwartz) | 21 comments TTTC certainly feels like a collection of true war stories. I think when a writer writes about something that he or she knows really well the story feels more realistic. Additionally, I find that, throughout the book, O'Brien tends to draw a lot from similar personal experiences. This makes the book feel even more real. Yet when Rat Kiley tells Mark Fossie's story, Mitchell Sanders said the only thing that matters about the story is "The stuff itself, and you can't clutter it up with your own half-baked commentary. That just breaks the spell. It destroys the magic" (106). I think part of what makes TTTC feel so real is the lack of O'Brien's "commentary", so to speak, in his own stories. His ability to tell stories without lots of digressions adds to the flow of the book as a whole.


message 5: by Ilana (new)

Ilana | 24 comments I often wondered, while reading, if the points where O'Brien addressed the audience with "This is true" were actually taken from his own life. I think that this was intentional--that he was blending truth and fiction to point out that in war stories, the line between truth and fiction is blurred and even nonexistent.


message 6: by Ling (new)

Ling Zhang | 20 comments Somehow I have the feeling that even when he says "this is true" (67), the story is still fictional. I do agree with you in that it was intentional in that if the stories actually happened is not important.


message 7: by Catie (new)

Catie Cooper | 20 comments As mentioned in class, I along with a couple other people in our class read a book in history about WWII and it was told in first person. Also the book was true. That book is very similar to TTTC. I never would have guessed that TTTC was not true had I not read the back cover of the book. As many of you stated, the things that take place in TTTC could very well have happened in Vietnam to actual soldiers. An American soldier could have killed a VC soldier using a grenade. There were probably plenty of soldiers that died by stepping on land mines. Most of the details in the various anecdotes that make up the novel are believable. And that is what is important. As O'Brien mentions in his narrative many times, the details tend to change as a person remembers what happened. What is relayed on to others is never exactly what happened. But if the reader can understand how the war was and how violent and crazy the war was than that is what is important. As long as the message or meaning of the story is conveyed than it doesn't matter if the details are wrong. So the story does not need to be true but it does need to give the reader a good idea about the perils of war.


message 8: by Arielle (new)

Arielle Weingast | 22 comments I completely agree with Catie. I mentioned this in my post, because I spoke about the novel with my uncle on Thanksgiving and he said, "The details don't matter. What matters are the emotions and strength that is endured during the hardest of times." I really took this to heart when I continued reading, because at first I was really focusing on the fact that the novel was not true. But, the point is that O'Brien went to war and is expressing what he saw and felt via made up characters. And, we can live through them, as well.


message 9: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 20 comments One of the things I found most interesting about this work was the idea of a good war story not necessarily being true, but if you had to ask if it was true, it mattered. I think this is why O'Brien mentions the fact that these stories are not true. If we think they are true, or they feel true to us, and we ask if it's true, we can take something away from these stories and treat them as truths. If you have to ask if all the awful war stories are true, after having shuddered reading the stories, the idea that you can prevent something like this or just become more knowledgable and sensitive to the matter of war, then the stories have served their purpose, true or not.


message 10: by Loren (new)

Loren Helms | 14 comments As many of the others said, whether the events actually happened or not doesn't matter. What O'brien captures is the emotional tole on the people who fought in the war. For example, the story of Marie Anne was probably not true, it is just to far fetched to be true. However, it did show the irreversable effect on the witnesses of war, even those as pure as Marie Anne. The stories capture the effect of the war, the things that were carried with the participants after the act. What the acts were or how they happened is not as important.


message 11: by Eitan (new)

Eitan Amiel | 13 comments In order to correctly answer the question of whether TTTC is a series of true war stories the definition of "true war story" must be taken. Like others, I will use O'Brien's definition from page 78 "A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe." These stories absolutely made my stomach believe. The stories illustrate the confusion of the Vietnam War and appear to be completely true. Even if the facts are not literally historical, it does not change the veracity of the story as long as we use O'Brien's definition


message 12: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Disalvo | 21 comments I think Eitan pretty much summed it up. Whether or not these war stories are true, it doesn't matter. They create an illusion of the Vietnam War and the hardships the soldiers witnessed. Although this is a piece of fiction, each reader is captivated by O'Brien and his anecdotes of war. He got inspiration from his war experiences and is, therefore, able to make it seem even more authentic. While I understand that we will never be able to distinguish between what is true and what isn't (within in war stories), we still understand the violence and emotional tole of war and that is what truly matters.


message 13: by Arielle (new)

Arielle Weingast | 22 comments I agree with the above, as I have stated in class: the truth and the facts of the stories do not matter. I don't believe O'Brien wanted his readers to get hung up on the facts and details, but the emotions. He wanted his readers to see the long term effects of war and what happens doesn't stay on the battlefield, but often follows soldiers back home.


message 14: by Hillary (new)

Hillary (hillaryschwartz) | 21 comments I want to add that O'Brien's depiction of Vietnam is so vivid and feels so true that it allows us to experience the nearest truths of the war. Yet we will never feel the truth of the war that the soldiers felt. Even though O'Brien can make us feel the power of the emotions, we can never experience the full effect of the emotions. We were not soldiers and we will never know what war really felt like. As readers, we have a different slant on the war. It is certainly harder for us to form our own opinions about the war. We do not have as much knowledge or experience as those soldiers did. However, the facts are not as important here as the emotions are.


message 15: by Ilana (new)

Ilana | 24 comments This just makes coping with war memories after the war even harder for the ex-soldiers. Since hardly anyone they knew before had gone to war, to whom could they explain what happened to them? Who would understand? This fact forms the plots of several of the stories, including "Speaking of Courage", "Notes", the beginning of "Ambush", and parts of many other chapters.


message 16: by Randie (new)

Randie (randiead) | 22 comments even though i'm obviously not an authority on this topic, I think that hardest part of of coming home from war and one of the main causes of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)is not having anyone to relate to when a soldier comes home. The scenery, the situation, everything is just too much of a shock for someone just coming out of such a pressurized world. I think that's why O'Brien continues to tell war stories, and it doesn't matter whether they actually happened to him or not. They are true to him, true to war, and they are something that make people understand what O'Brien went through.


message 17: by Ling (new)

Ling Zhang | 20 comments I agree with Randie. I think soldiers suffer from PTSD because they have problems fitting in after they come back from war. They cannot find a place in society. They cannot find people who understand their emotions. Instead, they want to hear exciting stories or the metals and honors the soldiers won. O'Brien wants people to understand emotions that are true to war, so he continues to write "true war stories." They all represent want each of the Vietnam soldiers went through, therefore the happening truth becomes irrelevant.


message 18: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Disalvo | 21 comments If you're in Mr. Morrison's American Foreign Policy class, then you watched the movie The Best Year of Our Lives. This movie was made in 1946 and it was about three soldiers and their return to the United States after World War II. We see in this movie that it is very difficult for the veterans to adapt to their homes. They are even more frustrated that everything isn't the same or how they pictured it would be. They feel alone and sad that no one can connect with them. We see here, throughout The Things They Carried, that is doesn't matter what war one fights in -- when a veteran comes home, he feels out of place. O'Brien shares these war stories with us as a way to cope with his loneliness and create a place for himself in post-war society.


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