AP Literature Hr. 5
4 October 2013
Reality or Fiction
Reality is the actual person, entity, or event. Fiction is not necessarily based on fact; it is produced by the imagination. By giving the narrator his own name and naming the rest of his characters after the men he actually fought alongside in the Vietnam War, O’Brien blurs the distinction between fact and fiction.
The reality is that Tim O’Brien is a real person and he is the author of The Things They Carried. O’ Brien did actually serve in the Vietnam War as a soldier. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know whether or not any given event in the stories truly happened to O’Brien. Through writing about his experiences in Vietnam, O’Brien’s character is able to sort through his emotions, since “by telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin ...view middle of the document...
For example, before he starts talking about a gruesome story of the killing of a water buffalo, O’Brien writes, “This one does it for me. I’ve told it before—many times, many versions—but here’s what actually happened” (74). O’Brien is admitting that the story has been fictionalized. The readers are forewarned that the story has become an invention and the readers must remember that The Things They Carried is fiction. As O’Brien writes about writing, he establishes some sort of trust between the readers and himself. Thus, making the readers believe the stories he tells.
Trust has been formed and this makes the readers believe that O’Brien, as a character, is telling the truth. This is where the fiction comes in. Although the work is classified as fiction, O’Brien calls the reader to question the credibility of the stories, which implies that the stories may be true since their validity is in question. This technique, which creates uncertainty for the reader, mimics the uncertainty young foot soldiers must have felt while fighting in Vietnam. The reader is able to experience at first hand the uncertainty of being in Vietnam. The fiction of the stories gives the readers more feeling of what the war was like. It makes the stories more relatable to the people. O’Brien argues that his fiction piece is more accurate than nonfiction pieces on the Vietnam War. Even when he exaggerates the truth or changes the details of a story, he does so to make the Vietnam War more real for the readers. The truth of the story depends almost solely on how real the experience seems for the readers.
O’Brien admits on several occasions to fictionalizing The Things They Carried, and, ironically, his fictionalizing makes the account truer. He is able to redefine what is true by showing readers that a sensationalized account of Vietnam can be more accurate than a textbook version of the war if the readers are able to feel the same emotions as the soldiers. Even with the exaggeration and falsification, the reality of Vietnam is accurately created by Tim O’Brien.