The Things They Carried: How to Tell a True War Story

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Tim O Brien starts his novel by saying, An actual war story is never moral. It does not enforce or encourage any for a moral construct of how people should behave, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. In the event that a story is inclined to be moral, don't believe it. [] There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. This can be described as a satirical message of other books that may show that wars waged by countries are for the good of the country, and there is an honor to it, a true war story is brute and savage, that is what we get from O Brien. He uses his experience as a past veteran to describe the lives of the soldiers and gives a true representation of actually how the Vietnam invasion was and the atrocities that they went through during the war.

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O Brien starts by prefacing history as true. He describes the story of Rat, who writes a letter to Curt Lemons sister after his death while tossing a smoke grenade in the shade of trees. He describes how Rat loved Curt. He expresses how both Curt was a daredevil, a true soldier, one who would take missions that no one in the military dared to take, how he did recon missions that were dangerous and highly risky. He described how Rat loved Curt and always took him for the twin he never had in life. OBrien uses the story of Rat as a description of the amorality that is always in war stories. He tells of how the sister never replied to the letter and how Rat called her a dumb cooze. This a clear and brute description of the activities that take place during the war. He tells of how the society forgets people who are in the war and no one ever cares about them and the atrocities they went through during the war. OBrien describes that a true war story is difficult to tell, and any moral lessons depicted in most war stories are not true.

On another part, OBrien describes the story of another soldier by the name Mitchel Sanders. In his write, he describes the recount of Sanders about soldiers sent to a mountain on a listening operation on a Vietnam Post. After several days of being on the mountain, the soldiers hear strange noises and music; this frightens them. The next day ensues, and they hear voices of people and other noises that could describe an ongoing cocktail party. After a few moments, they hear noises that sounded like talking monkeys and even tress, the men get scared, and they ordered air strikes. Jets came flying destroying everything within the described location where the weird noises were coming from. The funny and confusing part is that the next day in the morning they still hear the voices. The go back to the base and are asked by the Colonel what they heard; the fact is they had no answer. On the same day, Sanders comes along to OBrien and tell him that some parts of the story were invented. The fact that comes out of this story is that you can never believe what anyone tells you, war stories can be ambiguous and highly misconstrued. People have different interpretations, and everybody tells their stories. OBrien say that what you feel in your gut is what is true to you, either you decide to believe it or not, its all up to what you feel in your gut.

OBrien also give another depiction that generalizes war stories. He describes that war was hell. He also contradicts himself talking about how alive one feels alive after a firefight with the enemy front. This alludes to having a feeling of heaven while in hell. One is able to understand the gravity of the situation in war, the ambiguity of good and bad, evil and good, white and black all mixed up in a mash that confusing and disheartening. He tells the story about the death of Lemon, Rats friend who was blown up when he stepped on a rigged mortar round. He describes that for one moment Curt Lemon was to fool around happy and the next second he is blown up to pieces. He describes the uncertainties in the life of a military man, for one moment you are alive and the next you not around anymore. In this story again, OBrien describes how he and Jensen are sent to recover Curts body that was blown off on top of a tree. While they were retrieving Curts body parts, Jensen kept on singing Lemon Tree. One would cry wolf when they hear this story; O'Brien describes how soldiers are broken, the detachment to humanity and feeling of remorse that makes them who they are. Soldiers are seemingly dead on the inside. He describes Lemons death as surreal seemliness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed. He describes how one can lack words to express the hard truth of was and how savage it can be. He says that it is through the use of inscription and repeated inscriptions that the message can be conveyed properly and that non-military individuals can understand the truth. He brings the aspect of a closed circle of people who only can really get what he tries to explain; this brings the theme of exclusivity of the story.

Taking, for instance, a war movie like Good Morning Vietnam it describes the story of Adrian who holds a broadcasting position for the military men in Vietnam. He encounters many situations where he sees the depravity of the war just like a bombing he survived and the pile of dead bodies of men that are scattered all over. He wants to say the truth of the matter, but he is silenced by Lieutenant Hawk and Sergeant Major Dickerson who believe that America has a right to be in Vietnam, and the American people do not deserve to know the truth of the war. This film relates to OBriens critics of war stories, what we are shown are not true, the movie relates on how in many movies the truth is hidden through the withholding of information, misinformation of American families and the dilution of the stories of war, the discrimination, and atrocities committed to the people of Vietnam. OBrien describes his situation of the man he killed At the time of his death he had been carrying a pouch of rice, a rifle, and three magazines of ammunition this tells one of the peasant nature of how the Vietnamese were. Later he describes how the military would resupply them unceasingly, Soldiers would throw away and even blow away their claymore knowing that the resupply helicopters would bring in a fresh supply of the same, a follow up of the ammunition supply will be done a day or two later. Fruits, to sunglasses, to woollen woven cardigans armaments and objects of comfort for the soldiers were never in short supply. The ambiguities of the war in Vietnam and the resupply trips that came by like freight trains was a clear indicator that they would never lack anything to carry. From this one can relate to what OBrien was saying, the military believed that things could win the war, their army was fully stocked. Looking at the flip side of the story, the Vietnamese people did not have it all it takes to take on a military like that of the US, these stories are never told, so one should be skeptic about all war stories books and novels.

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