The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried Truth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story Title.Paragraph)
Norman is back in the story, where he belongs, and I don't think he would mind that his real name appears. (Notes.20)
It's extremely unclear as to whether or not Norman is a fictional character or a real guy. At this point in the book, we're inclined to believe that he's real; even though we know O'Brien's feelings about the nature of truth, O'Brien just flat-out told us that he used Norman's real name. He wouldn't lie to us that blatantly, would he? Would he?
After you've read "Good Form," though, this quote comes into question. O'Brien might very well be lying to us, and Norman could very well be fictional, along with the rest of the Alpha Company.
Norman did not experience a failure of nerve that night… That part of the story is my own. (Notes.20)
This quote feels like a punch to the gut. All along, we've believed that Norman was the one who failed to save Kiowa. Suddenly, we find out that it's our beloved narrator... and none other than Kiowa's best friend.
Here, O'Brien makes the truth blurry to show how painful something can be. Tim the Soldier can't directly face his own culpability and the agony of that night, so he uses Norman instead. (In the next story, "In the Field," he puts the blame back on himself, but uses the third person to keep a certain distance between himself and the action.)
It's time to be blunt… I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth. (Good Form.1-6)
O'Brien starts out the quote by telling us that almost every single thing in the book is invented, and finishes by putting himself in Rat's shoes. He wants us to feel what he felt. And we like Rat, right? So we'll forgive O'Brien. Besides, he's finally giving us names for the two different kinds of truth: story-truth (what the truth feels like) and happening-truth (what actually happened).