The Things They Carried
How we cite our quotes:
This book is lovingly dedicated to the men of Alpha Company, and in particular to Jimmy Cross… and Kiowa. (Dedication)
OK, so this is the dedication, and not necessarily something that we would normally analyze. But having read the book, you know that every single one of the men he dedicates the book to is fictional. The dedication tricks us into thinking that they're indeed real. Maybe he really meant to dedicate the book to all the Rat Kileys and Jimmy Crosses and Kiowas of the world. While we think that's probably part of it, we also think that believing characters are real makes readers love them more. (How are you not going to adore a real soldier named Rat who reads comic books? Come on!) Loving the characters as if they're real makes it harder to detach from them intellectually once you know that they aren't. O'Brien loves mixing things together. He wants us to feel how confusing reality seems in war, and this is a crucial part of that.
This is true. (How to Tell a True War Story.1)
If the main character in a book has the same name as the author, and the book itself is based on a general experience that we know the author had, we instinctively assume that the book is true. In this quote, O'Brien is taking that assumption and making it explicit. Of course, almost nothing in the book is true – except that it totally, totally is, according to O'Brien's definition of truth.
If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty. (How to Tell a True War Story.9)
This is one of the only political statements in the book, and it's telling that it's about the truth. The soldiers who go to war come home knowing truths that civilians cannot know and that, for the most part, they don't want to hear. Here, O'Brien is saying that the truth can't be clean, or easy to hear.