Some authors write stories in attempts to evoke certain emotions in the readers, and for this reason, they tend to distort the truth. Notably, the case is not different with OBrien in his book The Things They Carried which comprises of short stories concerning the Vietnam War. It is evident that OBrien significantly distorts the reality of the experiences and this creates concern to the reader. One fails to understand whether the stories are fictional or they are accounts of what the soldiers encountered in war. For instance, in the story, How to tell a true war story, the author feeds the reader with exaggerations and lies. He even writes In war, you lose your sense of the definite, hence your sense of truth itself, and therefore its safe to say that in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true (OBrien 88). The alteration of truth in the stories ignites speculations of whether his stories are true or false. Perhaps, what is more, striking is that the distortion creates a suspicion of dishonesty. O'Brien is only driven by the need to arouse emotional feelings through the blatant lies as opposed to painting the reality on the ground. The horrific events are exaggerated intense trauma, and hence, the distortion of truth makes the stories sound more fictional.
Literary Techniques Used
OBrien employs many literary techniques in his stories to bring out the truth and reality of the war experiences. He uses euphonious diction which helps to lighten the dark haunting reality of war. For example, in Speaking of Courage, OBrien describes Bowkers neighborhood saying the houses were handsome ...brightly painted and neat gardens (OBrien 131). The diction used enables the readers to envision the neighborhood being a peaceful place which is a contrast to the brutality that the Vietnam War. Imagery is highly evident in his works. For example, in Speaking of Courage, there are images of the field and lake which are used to illustrate the way the characters could not escape the reality of battle. Again, use of metaphor is a vital literary technique. The sewage field in Speaking of Courage is a metaphor of the unpleasant war that the soldiers faced. Symbolism is also an element that comes out in many of OBriens stories. The story, How to Tell a True War Story is a symbol of war experiences, and OBrien maintains that the victims are consumed by gore, pain, and terror. He says in this story that "Order blends into chaos, love into hate, ugliness into beauty, law into anarchy, civility into savagery." This symbolizes brutality and the way war transforms people and loose humanity. Again, Linda in the story The Things They Carried signify elements of the past that can be brought back through storytelling and imaginations.
Repetition is also used to emphasize the situation described. In the story On the Rainy River, repetition comes out as a basic element that emphasizes the emotions. The narrator says I couldn't get my breath; I couldnt stay afloat; I couldn't tell which way to swim (OBrien 90). Besides, the narrator says sorrow, sorrow like I had never known it before (OBrien 91). Furthermore, alliteration is evident when the narrator in On the Rainy River says a sudden swell of helplessness (OBrien 91). This literary technique also brings out emphasis. Use of simile is manifested as a technique. For example the narrator in On the Rainy River describes himself feeling as if I had toppled overboard (OBrien 92). The numerous literary devices used not only make the story captivating to the reader but also help the author in communicating the underlining theme and depict the book to be a masterpiece.
O'Brien Tim. The Things They Carried. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1990.
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