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

1455 words 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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Sometimes it’s just beyond telling” (71), and “In war you lose your sense of definite, hence your sense of truth itself, therefore it’s safe to say that in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true” (82). These remarks by Tim O’Brien are all about what “happening truth” and “story truth” are all about. In war it is impossible to know and remember the definite “happening truth”, therefore while telling a war story that may be totally true; one must fill in blanks with “story truth” for those listening not to get lost. In the chapter “The Man I Killed”, Tim O’Brien takes the whole playing with truth idea to a new level, and you are not able to realize until later in the novel. In this chapter O’Brien describes, quite literally as the chapter is titled, the man he killed. He goes through everything in such detail and paints such a clear picture in the reader’s head to imagine. He describes in detail how the body was, “His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star-shaped hole, his eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman’s, his nose was undamaged, there was a slight tear at the lobe of one ear, his clean black hair was swept upward into a cowlick at the rear of the skull, his fingernails were clean…” (124). He recalls dialogue between his fellow platoon members about the man he killed, “’Oh, man, you fuckin’ trashed the fucker,’ Azar said. ‘You scrambled his sorry


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