Tim O’Brien served as an infantryman with the US Army in Vietnam.
The story: A modern classic about a Vietnam veteran who tries to describe the truth about war to a civilian audience.
Themes: Veteran anger, difficulty of describing war, attitude toward enemy and foreign noncombatants, war’s violence, the civil-military divide
Characters: An unnamed first-person narrator, an Army Vietnam veteran. Bob “Rat” Kiley, Curt Lemon, and Mitchell Sanders, soldiers in the narrator’s squad. A unnamed woman who attends a reading by the narrator.
- What does the narrator mean when he writes, “A true war story is never moral”?
- Does the narrator miss being in Vietnam? Why?
- Why does the narrator so irritated by the woman “Kindly temperament and humane politics” at the end of the story?
For further exploration, watch this interview with Tim O’Brien:
Find “How to Tell a True War Story” here: