Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a meta-fictional novel that redefines truth-telling. The narrator layers factual “happening-truth” with “story-truth,” where he re-imagines, exchanges details, and makes statements like, “A true war story cannot be believed” (O’Brien 71). Using the Elizabeth Cady Stanton conversation, students will consider the Vietnam War lent itself to dreamlike “story-truth.” Is “happening-truth” essential to uncovering realities of war, or does “story-truth” more accurately imitate the moral instability of certain war experiences? Students may then view the My Lai Massacre documentary, an event the author examines in In the Lake of the Woods.
Level: Secondary English/Language Arts
Subject Area: American Literature/U.S. History
Author: Karina Isley