Sample Essay On Truth: The First Casualty Of War

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, War, Veterans, Truth, Ethics, Writer, Combat, The Things They Carried

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/12/07

As Winston Churchill once said, "The first casualty of war is truth." The implications of this statement are far-reaching -- not only affecting soldiers, the media, and citizens, but hemming in the ability for the solitary writer to craft a believable work of fiction, a work of art that is both entertaining and realistic. In spite of the difficulties posed by the barrier to fictional, but factual storytelling, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is a dynamic short story that is both believable and entertaining. Telling a war story is difficult, but O'Brien's use of dialogue and his references to the accouterments of the Vietnam War are so realistic that the reader can only wonder which character is based upon his own combat experience.
One of the main difficulties that confronts the writer of a war story is lending the tale the aura of realism. For a writer who has perhaps never been to war or who has never seen the realities of combat and casualties, the task is difficult. They must rely almost solely on a vivid imagination in order to craft a gritty, believable story. Another difficulty is relating information that only a soldier and his platoon may have been privy to. To do otherwise entails the violation of a sacred code among veterans -- not to mention a breach of confidentiality with the American government in general -- and the armed forces, more specifically. A timely story could even risk the lives of soldiers in combat, whose positions, weaponry, and operations cannot (and should not) be revealed during times of war.
In spite of the secrecy surrounding all wars, O'Brien manages to overcome all of the abovementioned barriers to telling the truth about war. For instance, his depiction of the stress on the soldiers' minds -- and bodies -- is revealed by dialogue between soldiers when they discover a VC corpse during a routine sweep: "Henry Dobbins thought about it./Yeah, well, he finally said. I don't see no moral. His fellow platoon member, Mitchell Sanders, replies, "There it is, man" to which Dobbins rejoinders, "Fuck off" (O'Brien, 351). Much of the story's dialogue is on this order, as if O'Brien had a light with which to penetrate the thoughts and speech of a imaginary platoon of mismatched, stressed-out soldiers who, at any time, could be attacked by enemy fire.
Furthermore, O'Brien's work references a lexicon of war terminology. He refers to weapons by their nicknames, such as Bouncing Betties, Claymores, and CS grenades. He also refers to the soldiers' "C rations". Moreover, his familiarity with geographical positions is notable, as he includes the "elaborate tunnel complexes in the Than Khe area south of Chu Lai (O'Brien, 347). Thus, the pervasive references show that either O'Brien's technical skills are either extremely inventive, imaginative, based on his own experiences, or all of the above. Only a knowledge of O'Brien's personal history could solve the question, which may be better left as a mystery.
Nonetheless, O'Brien manages to invent a story that captures the violent, inhumane realities of combat, de-mystifying, in the process, the blood-and-gore that is the truth of war. Whether he participated in the theater of battle is a matter of little consequence -- a moot point. O'Brien is still able to show the psychic toll that war takes on its respective players. His powers of invention and imagination are able to masterfully depict both the internal and external truth of war by using no more than a typewriter and paper.
The Things They Carried shows how a writer must tell a war story, and to what extent, the truth must suffer in its telling. O'Brien's inventiveness and imagination anchor this story in reality. The reader can only wonder if the writer personally witnessed the hell of his account. Either way, O'Brien manages to masterfully overcome the barriers that are present in the depiction of any story from the frontlines of any war. As a result, the truth is urgent and believable in its "fictional" distortion. O'Brien's art takes Churchill's insightful maxim to task with what some may consider a higher truth: art.

Works Cited

O'Brien, Tim. (n.d.) "The Things They Carried." Web. 03 Mar 2015.

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WePapers. (2020, December, 07) Sample Essay On Truth: The First Casualty Of War. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from
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"Sample Essay On Truth: The First Casualty Of War." WePapers, Dec 07, 2020. Accessed May 28, 2022.
WePapers. 2020. "Sample Essay On Truth: The First Casualty Of War." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved May 28, 2022. (
"Sample Essay On Truth: The First Casualty Of War," Free Essay Examples -, 07-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-May-2022].
Sample Essay On Truth: The First Casualty Of War. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 07, 2020. Accessed May 28, 2022.

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