Storytelling Kaytlin Kuns IB English 3 HL Brennan IOP
In Tim O’Brien’s ﬁctional novel The Things They Carried, how doesO’Brien use storytelling as a device to impart truth? Additionally, why is storytelling’s ability to preserve memories so vital for the human soul?
Background: Tim O’BrienBorn October 1, 1946 in Austin, MinnesotaGraduated from Macalester College in 1968 and wasdrafted into the Vietnam war directly afterwardsHe was strongly against the war, but reported forservice none the lessReturned from his tour in 1970 and became agraduate student at HarvardLeft Harvard to be a newspaper reporter, and wouldlater on become a ﬁction writer
O’Brien is using hisstories as a device to impart truth to his readers.
“And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It’s about sunlight. It’s about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do.It’s about love and memory it’s about sorrow. It’s about sisters who never write back and people who never listen” (81).
Subject is war; however, the story O’Brien is telling is not.He is using the story as a device to explicate the real purpose of the writing: the emotional truth.
Vivid imagery of the setting to place yourself in thefootsteps of the soldiers, so that you can feel whatthey were experiencingPathos O’Brien is reaching out to us on an emotional level to place us into the story emotionally “It’s about love and memory, it’s about sorrow.”Repetition “It’s about”
“Even that story is madeup. I want you to feel what Ifelt. I want you to know why story-truth is truersometimes then happening- truth” (171).
In this quotation O’Brien explainshis purpose for distorting facts of the story. O’Brien uses the distortion of the “happening-truth”, to amplify the emotional truth of the tale.
Why?O’Brien’s purpose in writing is not totell us a factual account of a war story.O’Brien is preserving what was reallyfelt by these people. Truth.“happening-truth” vs “story-truth”
“Here is the happening-truth. I was once asoldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty yearslater, I’m left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief. Here is the story-truth. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of abouttwenty. ...‘Daddy, tell the truth...did you ever kill anybody?’ And I can say, honestly, ‘Of course not.’ Or I can say, honestly, ‘Yes’” (172).
Here O’Brien is illustrating his ﬁnalpoint: the meaning behind the word truth.Classically, we know truth to be whatfactually is; however, what O’Brien isemphasizing to us is a philosophical view of truth emphasizing not facts but emotional realism.
Stories are essentialfor the human soul. Stories teach us and comfort us.Stories connect bring people together. They immortalize. Stories can save what is lost.
“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory andimagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness” (218).
O’Brien explains how he uses hisstories as a tool to whittle and mold them with his imagination.By manipulating the stories this way O’Brien states they bring peopletogether, by inviting others to “then dream along with you”.
“And as a writer now, I want to save Linda’s life. Not her body--her life. She died of course. ...It was a braintumor. ..But in a story I can steal hersoul. I can revive, at least brieﬂy, thatwhich is absolute and unchanging. In a story, miracles can happen. Linda can smile and sit up. She can reach out touch my wrist and say, ‘Timmy, stop crying’” (224).
Illustrating a Transcendentalist view “I want to save Linda’s life. Not her body--her life.”
Both of these quotes illustrate one of the most important reasons why storytelling is so important to us as humans. We as humans are mortal. But words, ideas and stories can live on. One may be gone, but never lost. The dead can live.
“I’m young and happy. I’ll never die. I’mskimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story” (233).
O’Brien’s metaphor symbolizes hisown need for stories and why he has placed so much emphasis on their importance.
Stories don’t just save the dead.. They save ourselves as well.