Focus for TTTC Assignment

20 12 2010

Focus: Tim O’brien lies about almost everything in his book, The Things They Carried. Tim O’brien is completely honest in his book, The Things They Carried. Both of these sentences are factual. In reality, Tim O’brien lied but he only did so to convey the emotional truth so that we, the readers, can feel what he felt. He extends the truth so it becomes a lie so we can all feel an honest emotion. This is represented in these passages:
1. Is it true?
The answer matters.
You’d feel cheated if it never happened. Without grounded reality, it’s just a trite bit of puffery, pure Hollywood, untrue in the way that all stories are untrue. Yet even if it did happen–and maybe it did, anything’s possible–even of then you know it can’t be true, because a true war story does not depend upon a kind of truth. Absolute occurence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth. For example: Four guys go down a trail. A grenade sails out. One guy jumps on it and takes the blast, but it’s a killer grenade and everybody dies anyway. Before they die, though, one of the dead guys says, “what the fuck did you do that for?” and the jumper says, “story of my life, man,” and the other guy starts to smile but then he’s dead.
That’s a true war story that never happened.

2. I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier.
Almost everything else is invented.
But ti’s not a game. It’s form. Right here, now, as I invent myself, I’m thinking of all I want to tell you about and why this book is written as it is. For instance, I want to tell you this: twenty years ago I watched a man die on a trail near My Khe. I did not kill him. But I was present, you see, and my presence was guilt enough [the previous chapter was “The Man I Killed]. I remember his face, which was not a pretty face because his jaw was in in throat, and I remember feeling the burden of responsibility and grief. I blamed myself. And rightly so, because I was present.
But listen. Even that story is made up.
I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.
Here is the happening truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I’m left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.

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