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English War Paper

English War Paper

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Published by Sliverburst
A paper written on the topic:
“Story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth”
The goal is to argue this topic, based on the war unit, mostly "The Things They Carried" by Tim O' Brien.
A paper written on the topic:
“Story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth”
The goal is to argue this topic, based on the war unit, mostly "The Things They Carried" by Tim O' Brien.

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Published by: Sliverburst on Jun 01, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/24/2012

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Truth is lies, facts, stories, beliefs, proof, and/or fantasy. Truth is not necessarily what hasactually happened, rather truth is an illusion of belief. What we interpret as the truth is simply what we believe to be realistic. For example, sometimes people get the feeling they are dreaming, although theyare conscious. They simply think that their reality is too different than their norm, therefore it gives thema dreamy, airy feeling.Frequently, we believe that actual events are "truer" than made-up truths, quite contrary to the popular opinion, story truth can sometimes prove more realistic and believable than the real events thathave unfolded. Although logically, one would expect the “truth” to be truer, yet examples from many books and short stories prove the exact opposite. “I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, andthey thought it was hell.” Said by Harry S. Truman can be applied to this scenario. His truth becomesexaggerated in the eyes of the listeners. Not only does Truman support the idea of the story truth beingmore realistic, but also Tim O ‘Brien provides some examples in his work,
Also, in one of Mark Twain's works, the short story"The War Prayer",he shows the contrast betweenthe two types of truth, story-truth and happening truth, and the people's reaction to the "happeningtruth." "What Were They Like"by Denise Levertov is also a good example of two truths presented at the same time ;however, unlike the other two examples, Levertov does not show the person's reaction to thehappening truth.Tim O’ Brien’s
is essentially a medley of stories that the companyencountered. Most stories, you expect a moral, telling you do follow this and not do that. However,according to O’ Brien, “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have alwaysdone.” (O' Brien, 68) These stories are pointless, unlike the stories that are fantasies and provide thelistener with a moral. The truth is simply what it is, the dull truth, there’s nothing else to it. “Often in atrue war story there is not even a point, or else the point doesn’t hit you until twenty years later, in your sleep and you wake up and shake your wife and start telling the story to her, except when you get to theend you’ve forgotten the point again.” (O'Brien, 82) Furthermore, in war, the truth is often crazy things
 
that people would never dream of. People would never believe you, therefore, O’ Brien tells you that thenormal things in the story is just there to get you to believe the story as a whole. The listener will feelthat the normal events are truthful, which leads them to believe in the story as a whole. “In many cases atrue war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. It’s a question of credibility. Often thecrazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believethe truly incredible craziness.” (O'Brien, 71) Later on, O’ Brien also tells us “It comes down to gutinstinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.” (O'Brien, 78) O’ Brien says that thehappening-truth is something that is gruesome, such as this passage, “He stepped back and shot itthrough the right front knee. The animal did not make a sound. It went down hard, then got up again,and Rat took careful aim and shot off an ear. He shot it in the hindquarters and in the little hump at its back… He shot randomly, almost casually, quick little spurts in the belly and butt. Then he reloadedsquatted down, and shot it in the left front knee… Somebody kicked the baby buffalo. It was still alive,though just barely, just in the eyes.” (O'Brien, 78,79) With this passage, O’ Brien shows something thatthe average sane human being could not think of. Although this is the truth, it is something that “makesthe stomach believe”, ergo making the truth seem less truthful then a made-up story. Another fineexample of a "true" story that never happened was when he tells of the classical tale of a soldier jumpingon a gernade to save his comrades; however, O' Brien says that this wouldn't feel "real" "If the answer matters, you've got you answer [if it was real]" (O'Brien, 83) O' Brien then gives you an example of "atrue story that never happened." (O'Brien, 84) He says "Four guys go down a trail. A gernade sails out.One guy jumps on it and takes the blast, but it's a killer gernade and everybody dies anyway." With thisstory, O'Brien tells you a tale story truth that is more true than the events that actually transpired.Mark Twain's short story,"The War Prayer"can be seen as two truths, the story-truth and thehappening truth, one said right after the other. Furthermore, it shows how our religion affects how weinterpret the "truths". The people's belief in the minister made them see the "story-truth", that he tellsthem, as the truth. Twain's aged stranger comes and proclaims the following, "'God's servant and yourshas prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the
 
other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and theunspoken." (Twain, Paragraph 9, 1st line) The stranger speaks of two prayers that have been saidsimultaneously by the minister. One that is literally spoken, and the other, the happening truth is not saidalthough it hides between the lines. The aged stranger than proceeds to tell them the happening truth"With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with theshrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn themout roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags andhunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, wornwith travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee,Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!" (Twain, Paragraph10, 2nd sentence) The people listening to this are simply shocked. "It was believed afterward that theman was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." (Twain, Paragraph 12) Like O' Brien'squote, any true war story makes the stomach believe. The gruesome truth is often rejected by many, justlike the crowd in Twain's short story.Similar to Mark Twain's"The War Prayer ", Levertov also includes two truths in her poem, "WhatWere They Like?" Unlike the other two examples, this poem does not show the reaction of the personasking the questions. The questioner in this poem can represent a person who has heard the story-truth."Did the people of Viet Nam use lanterns of stone?" (Levertov, lines 1,2), and "Did they use bone andivory, jade and silver, for ornament?" (Levertov, lines 6,7) show how he has heard of their culture andtheir lifestyle. The questioner is asking based on information that he has heard from someone else. Whenthe other person replies, he describes the happening truth to the questioner. Telling what has reallyoccurred there. "When bombs smashed those mirrors there was time only to scream."(Levertov, lines

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