Need help with my writing homework on Story-truth versus Happening-truth. Write a 2250 word paper answering; Story-truth, on the other hand, allows the listener to be there, with the narrator in the present, and see how things were. Story-truth allows for the emotion of war to be the truth, and not just the action. O’Brien uses both types of truth in his writing, to emphasis the difference, and to help the reader see that through emotion, difficult circumstances, and distant reality that story-truth comes much closer to actual truth than happening-truth.
O’Brien regularly uses story-truth as a way to show the emotional connections between the soldiers, and also the emotional burden that they share both when a fellow soldier dies, and when one of them kills an enemy soldier. One of the clearest examples of story-truth is in the description of the young Vietnamese soldier that was killed near My Khe. The first time the reader sees the story, they read about the other soldiers applauding the kill, and how well he had done, while he focuses on the injuries, and the shapes they represented to him. While the other soldiers saw his work as successful, he could only imagine what the young man had been like before he died. We are even taken into the other soldier’s life, and shown that he is a pacifist, who does not want to be there (a reflection of O’Brien’s own desire not to be there). The second time the reader encounters the story, the actual kill is described, the throwing of the grenade and the shock when the man actually died. The third time, the reader is told that O’Brien did not actually throw the grenade, he had only watched. The happening-truth would only tell the reader how the man had died. By creating a story-truth, the reader is allowed to see that the whole troop could feel the young man’s death, and how profound an impact that had on even those who did not make the kill. O’Brien, for example, feels as if he did, simply by being there and not stopping it. The story comes to life, and in many ways, who had killed the man no longer matters. What matters is how the men felt, and reacted to the event. That man may never have even existed, or been a compilation of several kills, but the feelings would have been the same each time. Those are the story-truth, and the real truth, because they are what last.
During the story, O’Brien allows the reader to see that war is not all medals and victory. He allows the reader inside, to see the tragedy, the death, and the plain humanity of those who go to war. For Vietnam, especially, many of the men fighting did not want to be there, and when they returned home, they did not know what to do with themselves. In Speaking of Courage, a story-truth, O’Brien takes a story about one man, and his hopelessness after the war, and helps his readers to feel the despair, and the strong feeling of being lost so many soldiers have when they return. His character imagines a conversation about the war, in which he could have won a medal. Except that nobody asked to hear the story. For the veterans, few people want to remember the war, and they had no way to share all the turmoil inside. These circumstances are impossible to show in happening-truth, since they only share the physical happenings. By making the story universal, everyone feels what it is like to be lost, and trapped inside their head.
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Throughout the book, a sort of distant reality is created for the reader. Distant, because although you can see the pain, and feel the emotion, it is hazy, and unclear what really happened.