Narrator's Truth in O'Brien's Good Form

This sample paper on In Tim O’brien’s Chapter “Good Form,” What Kind Of Truth Does The Narrator Say Is Truer? offers a framework of relevant facts based on recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body, and conclusion of the paper below.

Tim O’Brien artistic intention of telling a true war story is to downsize the role of the actual truth and emphasize the importance of the story truth, which gives the ‘true’ gut feelings. The narrator explains that what is made up is often truer than what actually happened, because it puts a face on faceless events and people.

Tim O’Brien also adds striking details to the soldiers’ perception of war so that even though, according to Tim O’Brien war is terrifying and grotesque, still some happiness can be found even in simple things. To show how the soldiers coped with the atrocities of war, Tim O’Brien showed us the striking details of their imagination which makes even normal situation such as soldiers marching seem pleasurable and real and that is how he manipulates the truth and the level of detail to execute his artistic intention.

Also he manipulates truth and the level of detail in such a way as to put the readers imagination at work by not mentioning the whole truth, which was the case at the end of Chapter 2, where the readers had to decide what Tim O’Brien meant by, “No I won’t”[pg 30].

A quote such as, “this is true”[pg 67],which starts the chapter, How to Tell a True War Story shows how cleverly Tim O’Brien shows the relative meaning of truth, he says that it is true, but then later on in the chapter he goes on to say “in a true war story nothing is absolutely true”.

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He obscures the meaning of truth so that the readers do not worry, whether it happened or not, “Absolute occurrence is irrelevant” [pg83], instead they should feel the essence of the truth. The essence of the truth according to O’Brien is that there are no morals in a war story and that a true war story has absolute allegiance to obscenity, evil and death. At the same time war fascinates Tim O’Brien. The following contradictory statements clearly prove that Tim O’Brien thinks that war is something you cannot generalize and each war story is unique and gives you a true ‘gut feeling’ that cannot be explained, “War is nasty; War is fun…war is grotesque…but in truth war is also beauty”[pg 80]. The previous quotes mirror the Greek term catharsis. Catharsis, in the simplest of words means happiness from tragedy, and this concept is essential for Tim O’Brien to show the soldiers inability to cope with war and how they need to make up stories or fantasies which keeps there mind off the war.

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This is the one of the reasons why Tim O’Brien obscures the idea of truth and gives the importance to ‘story truth’.Tim O’Brien does not want to make it seem like a story of courage and bravery and that is why he focuses on the atrocities of war and how the soldiers cope with them in their own ways. The striking details in quotes such as “tracer rounds unwinding through the dark like brilliant red ribbons” [pg 80], “you crouch in ambush as a cool impassive moon rises over the nighttime paddies” [pg80] and “you admire the fluid symmetries of troop son the move” [pg80] show how Tim O’Brien chooses to see the happiness and the bright side of things even though the setting is in a war and he states himself that “war is hell” [pg80]. The artistic intent here is to make the soldiers fantasize and only focus only on the tiny distractions [such as the cool impassive moon, brilliant red ribbons and fluid symmetries of troops] but at the same time he does not want to make it seem like a story or a dream and that is why he uses striking details here to successfully achieve verisimilitude.

In Chapter 2, Love, Tim O’Brien leaves things up to the readers imagination by not telling the whole truth when jimmy cross says “Don’t mention anything about -” and Tim O’Brien answers “no, I won’t” [page 30]. Here the readers cannot be certain about what Tim O’Brien is referring to as he does not provide enough detail. The distinction between truth and fiction does not mean much to O’Brien; feelings behind the story give the narrative its purpose. Therefore, whether or not O’Brien betrayed Cross is irrelevant when compared to the impact of Cross’s feelings of guilt how even 20 years after he carries the guilt of loving Martha more than his own men, which caused the death of ted lavender. It is Tim O’Brien’s artistic intention to not tell all the truth.

Therefore at the end of this chapter, the reader is left thinking what Tim O’Brien is referring to when he says “No I won’t”[pg30], Is he referring to Jimmy Cross’ guilt of having abandoned his men, or to the fact that Martha might have been a victim of rape or to the fact that Martha might be homosexual. It does not matter what he referring to or whether he betrayed jimmy cross or not. Tim O’Brien had succeeded in this artistic intention, the moment he got the readers thinking about the feasible ending to chapter 2. Thus Tim O’Brien’s artistic intention was to provide very little fact or striking details so that the readers are left thinking about the possible endings to the chapter and the fate of Jimmy Cross. Tim O’Brien has achieved his goal [of having the readers use their imagination] exceedingly well and all the readers are left thinking about the fate of Jimmy Cross and this love for Martha and his men.

In the chapter Good Form, the narrator explains that what is made up is often truer than what actually happened, because it puts a face on faceless events and people. It gives specificity to general events. Tim saw many people die, though he was afraid to ever really look at any of them. Centering all his guilt and grief on one man, the dead Vietnamese man in the chapter, The Man I killed, allows Tim to explain his feelings in a way that would not be possible without these made up details. Examples of the details are, “He was a slim, dead, almost dainty man of about twenty” and “His jaw was in his throat. His one eye was shut, the other eye was a star-shaped hole” [pg 180]. Tim O’Brien’s artistic intention here is very clear, he wants to show that the actual truth of a story comes from the feeling it gives, and Tim O’Brien wants to show that the story of Tim O’Brien having killed the man is truer than the happening truth or the actual events, which is that Tim O’Brien did not kill that man. Tim O’Brien wants to show that the sometimes the story truth is truer than the happening truth and to do this he adds realistic details to the story of him having killed the man in My Khe. Therefore Tim O’Brien fulfills his artistic intention and does achieve verisimilitude.

In conclusion Tim O’Brien has manipulated truth, the meaning of truth and the decree of truth told very well in order to show how soldiers are unable to cope with war and need to fantasize or get distracted from the war. Tim O’Brien also shows, successfully why sometimes, the story truth would have a greater impact on a reader rather than the happening truth as it gives a firsthand experience of the war and evokes the ‘gut feeling’. Also Tim O’Brien varies and maintains a low level of detail so that the readers are constantly guessing and he brings into play the readers’ imagination and causes the reader to think about the fate of Jimmy Cross and Martha.

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Narrator's Truth in O'Brien's Good Form. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Narrator's Truth in O'Brien's Good Form
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