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Why Tim O Brien Lies

All of us are guilty of lying at one time or another. Whether it was a little white lie like whether the toothfairy is real or not, or if it was something significant, such as if you committed a serious crime, we have all done it. Lying is definitely a part of society, and no one really likes it or appreciates it. Especially when it concerns matters of the heart. In the book The Things They Carried, author Tim O Brien lies frequently. There are times he will tell a sad, heart touching story, then tell you that it was not even true. This is incredibly frustrating to anyone that reads the book. However, I do not think that any publisher in the world would publish such a book if there was not a purpose for creating the fabrications in the first place. So it is to my sincere belief that Mr. O Brien tells these fabrications for the purpose of proving a point, and for the benefit of the reader.

I have loved this book from the beginning, although had it not been for class discussion, I would not have caught on to much. I could feel, however, that there was something about this work of fiction that made it different from the others that I have read before. I sit there sometimes with my mouth gaping open when I read about some of the ordeals they had to go through. It made you think. It gave you chills. It could even make you cry. So you can guess I was a pretty putout when I first read the line ” that story is made up.” I actually had to read it again to make sure I was not reading it wrong. What a weirdo, I thought. What was this guy thinking? Then I read the next line. “I want you to feel what I felt,” writes Mr. O Brien. “I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

In story-truth, there can be exaggerations and even falsehoods. But in happening-truth, it is just the facts, and all the details are correct. No frills. It is what really did happen. But it does not include what was happening inside your mind. That is why story -truth can be more true. It gets the point across in a way that no happening-truth can, in a way that makes you understand more and have more of a feeling for what it was like to be there. Story truth puts you in the story-tellers shoes, and you experience, partly, what they experienced.

“I want you to feel what I felt.” There is no way we can ever know in full what Mr. O Brien felt. You had to be there. Still, he can paint a picture so clear that we can almost see and hear and understand what it was like- – and we can have inkling as to how much “death sucks.” That is what he wanted. That was the reason for the false stories. We would not have been able to feel the feeling had Mr. O Brien come right out and said, “Hey, it s not important exactly what happened. Who killed who, who s fault it is Everyone is responsible. But it s about emotions, man. The way you feel, dude. Who cares about details? You just gotta be there, man.” Mr. O Brien taught us through the back door that war is about emotions and feelings and how you deal with what happens. It is about your mind, and the affect war has on you. Story-truths are more true than happening- truths because they almost make you feel like you are there.

The Boston Globe says The Things They Carried is “a book so searing and immediate you can almost hear the choppers in the background.” That is what story-truth is. Had it not been for the lies that Mr. O Brien told in his book, we would not have been given the gift of being able to hear the choppers in the background, or to have that feeling of warm sympathy inside you that comes when you have a partial understanding of what war is like. These lies are what make the book worth reading. The lies in The Things They Carried put into reality the fact that there is a horrendous weight that soldiers carry with them when they leave a war. It is with them through the rest of their life, and the civilians that did not go to war can never fully understand what they went through. But by listening to their story-truths, we can take a glimpse into their thoughts and feelings and hopefully understand why sometimes lying helps us see things in a way that telling the truth never can.


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