Task 4: War Stories

What is O’Brien’s central argument about war stories?

Consider the chapter “How to Tell a True War Story” and other comments O’Brien makes throughout the book on the power and purpose of stories.  Consider how he has blurred the line between truth and fiction throughout the novel.

Read the articles linked below and then answer the questions that follow.


  1. What similarities does O’Brien see between the war in Vietnam and today’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
  2. What role might stories play for today’s soldiers?
  3. Think about the war movies you have seen.  Consider O’Brien’s response in Texas Monthly interview about “accurate portrayals” in movies.  Do you agree or disagree with O’Brien?  What are some of the different ways that filmmakers have depicted the war experience? Which ones seem most “truthful” to you? Why?
  4. What distinction does O’Brien make between “story-truth” and “happening-truth”? To what extent does the distinction matter?
  5. To what extent does it matter to you as a reader whether or not O’Brien’s stories are “true” or not?

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