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Vietnam and BeyondTim O'Brien and the Power of Storytelling$
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Stefania Ciocia

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781846318207

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846317767

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date: 24 November 2017

The Power of Storytelling

The Power of Storytelling

Chapter:
(p.185) 5 The Power of Storytelling
Source:
Vietnam and Beyond
Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/UPO9781846317767.006

This chapter begins with a section devoted to ‘Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong’, one of the most arresting stories in The Things They Carried. In this short narrative, O'Brien acts on the idea that the war can only be understood ‘as though it were a story’ by engaging in a sustained and fruitful conversation with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The comparative close reading of the two texts highlights the evocative and sense-making power of ‘Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong’ as a creative re-elaboration of the experience of Vietnam. The second and third parts of the chapter return to The Things They Carried in its entirety, in order to explore its articulation of the distinction between ‘story-truth’ and ‘happening-truth’, and the author's endorsement of the former over the latter as the only truth potentially available to the storyteller.

Keywords:   Song Tra Bong, Things They Carried, short narrative, war, Vietnam story-truth, happening-truth

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