Answer questions to short story (3-5 paragraphs)

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion? Certainly, we all have. It is human nature to make judgments in order to navigate through this big, imposing world. However, Tim O’Brien reminds us in his short story, “How to Tell a True War Story,” that sometimes our preconceived notions are based on superficial understanding rather than deep examination.

After reading Tim O’Brien’s, “How to Tell a True War Story,” discuss the following questions in 3 to 5 paragraphs:

  1. The narrator in this story retells events from the first-person point of view. What impact does this more intimate point of view have on you, the reader?
  2. O’Brien is a master of imagery and detail. Talk about some specific images and descriptions he uses that bring the story’s setting and events to life for you and place you “in the moment” among the harsh conditions of the Vietnam conflict. In what ways does he attempt to show that war may even be beautiful or majestic?
  3. O’Brien begins and ends the narrative by recounting the story of Curt Lemon’s death. Discuss the reactions of the females who hear the story (Curt’s sister and the older woman at the end of the story). What does their silence and/or denial say about the human tendency to turn away from harsh truths?
  4. Why did Rat shoot and mutilate the young water buffalo? Can you empathize with the emotions behind his actions? What parallels can you draw between this violent act and the narrator’s contention that, “A true war story…makes the stomach believe?”
  5. Early on in this piece the narrator states, “A true war story is never moral.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Later, Mitchell Sanders suggests that the moral is that no one listens. What do you suppose he means by this?
  6. Throughout the story the narrator philosophizes about the nature of truth when it comes to war stories. Discuss ways in which the truths of war are complex, contradictory and far from black-and-white. What do you think is meant by the statement near the end of the story, “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”
  7. How might this story relate to your own worldview?

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