I feel like if Tim O’ Brien was your dad, you’d probably be able to get away with nearly everything or absolutely nothing at all. His personality makes him seem very straightforward with things and not really willing to compromise; however, his book tells us that he’s not exactly the straightforward guy he’s made out to be in person.
While reading The Things They Carried, I could tell that some things were obviously not true, like the whole thing about Mary Anne, but most scenes O’Brien incorporated seemed so vivid, so realistic, and so raw that they had to be true. The parts written in the first person about the character Tim seemed so detailed and shamefully honest that I really did think they were autobiographical. The war parts about Lemon being blown up, or Kiowa being sucked in a shit field, or Rat Kiley going nuts and blowing his toes off seemed realistic giving the horrible circumstance O’Brien created as background.
The problem is that O’Brien clearly states in the interview that many of the stories, while based off of truths of the war he witnessed, were made up to create the effect he wanted. I’ll admit, I felt a little betrayed at first when I found out he doesn’t have a daughter named Kathleen and that many of the stories that created my new schema of war weren’t really things that happened. After thinking about it some more and watching this interview, however, it began to make sense. While I’m sure many of Tim O’Brien’s real stories of the war he actually witnessed are just as gruesome and depressing and ironic, it’s the whole thing about being too attached to the details that he talks about that would get in the way of the feeling he wanted readers to leave with. Although it’s a little disconcerting at first to know that the stories in the novel were not 100% things that happened, I don’t think there was a better way for Tim O’Brien to create the pit in readers’ stomachs after reading about so many unnecessary deaths. While some would call tactic of writing unnecessary, I’ll just call it genius.