ComparingSoldiers Home with How to Tell a True War Story
TimO’Brien and Ernest Hemmingway use different writing styles toconvey their ideas to their audiences. These writing techniquesaffect the perceptions of readers in various ways. However, theirwritings reveal similar findings. For example, both writers usedwriting styles that can be termed as modern. Additionally, theydepicted soldiers as normal human beings, proved that lies are morecompelling than the truth in telling war stories, and revealed thepower of the audience in determining whether a story is true or not.However, these authors differ, in terms of perspective, when it comesto showing the effect that the war had on the soldiers. The centralpurpose of this paper is to compare Soldiers Home with How to Tell aTrue War Story.
ErnestHemmingway’s writing career started in a newspaper office at theage of seventeen, in a newspaper office in Kansas City. The start ofWorld War I motivated Hemmingway to join the Italian army as avolunteer in the ambulance unit (Ernest Hemmingway). He served at thefront, and, consequently, was wounded. The Italian Governmentdecorated him for his service and dedication to the nation. Afterreturning to the US, he was employed as a reporter for the Americanand Canadian newspapers. However, after a short while, he was sentback to Europe to cover conflicts. His experience in the war enabledhim to come up with writings like AFarewell to Arms (1929), The Sun Also Rises(1926), ForWhom the Bell Tolls(1940), and TheOld Man and the Sea(1952) (Ernest Hemmingway). Hemmingway`s writings portrayed strongcharacters like hunters and soldiers as individuals that lost faithand hope after being subjected to the cold war settings.
TimO’Brien, on the other hand, spent the bigger portion of his youthin Minnesota. From 1969 to 1970, O’Brien served as an infantryman(in Vietnam) in the American Army (Sanborn61).Later, he joined Harvard University to pursue graduate studies.Subsequently, he secured employment at TheWashington Post,as a national affairs reporter. Tim’s short fiction stories werefeatured in popular publications like TheNew Yorker, Harper`s, Esquire, Playboy, The Atlantic, and Plowshares.Consequently,The National Award Magazine was awarded to O’Brien in 1987, afterwriting TheThings They Carried.In 1999, O’Brien’s book received THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIESOF THE CENTURY. O’Brien also won Awards from organizations such asthe American Academy of Arts and Letter, The National Endowment forthe Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation (TimO’Brien).He has also been voted for in both the American Academy of Arts andSciences and Society of American Historians.
Theabove life stories reveal that the military experiences of TimO`Brien and Ernest Hemmingway influenced their lives and worldperceptions. Thus, their writings reflect the lives that soldiersusually lead during the times of war. The following sections comparetheir writing styles and ideas in Howto Tell a True War Storyand SoldiersHome.
ErnestHemmingway and Tim O`Brien`s books reveal the development of a newwriting style. In 1925, the writing industry had not developedsubstantially thus, Hemmingway’s and O’Brien’s writingsindicate a new approach to narrating events. The norm, during thepost First World War period, was defined by the use of extravagantwords. The two authors use straightforward and declarative sentences,which are devoid of emotion. Hemmingway, for example, narrates theevents that transpired in Krebs` life in a style that is easy tocomprehend. He uses imagery to describe the body sizes of Krebs andthe corporal (Hemmingway 1). He contended that Krebs and the corporallooked too big for their uniforms. O`Brien also adopted a similarwriting style. Tim`s book reflects humor. His writing is simple andcontextualizes events in a vivid manner. For instance, he writes thatRat`s letter was very personal and touching he even got teary whilewriting it. The two authors’ use of simple and easy to understandwords separates their work from that of the other authors during thepost-World War I period. The two authors also develop the narrationsof war stories that move away from the brave accounts that themajority of authors offer.
O`Brienand Hemmingway advanced war stories that depicted soldiers asordinary human beings, as opposed to the decorated heroes that moststories proffer. During the post-World War I period, the majority ofwriters described soldiers as heroes and survivors (Goris).Howto Tell a True War Storyand SoldiersHome provethat soldiers are regular human beings and suffer the effects of warjust like any other person. Hemmingway shows how Krebs lackedinterest in talking about the war, but, after a short while, he feltlike opening up to someone (Hemmingway 1). Additionally, Ernest showshow the war drained Krebs’ energy. He writes that Krebs wanted agirl but did not want to spend a lot of time courting her or engagingin the associated "polities" (Hemmingway 1). O`Brien alsooffers a similar account. His narration provides an account of Rat`sletter to Curt`s sister. Tim contends that Rat wrote a touching andpersonal letter to Curt`s sister, but he never received any feedbackfrom her. As a result, Rat felt ignored and called the young woman a“dumb Cooze” (O’Brien 1). In addition, Tim shows how the warturned O’Brien into a cold person. He writes that the death ofSanders was beautiful because the sunlight surrounded him and liftedhim up into a tree that was full of moss (O’Brien 2). Such adescription of death inspires the notion of a person that suffersfrom a psychological ailment due to the perils of war. Additionally,the two books show the superiority of lies over the truth.
Hemmingwayand O’Brien revealed how society readily accepts lies over thetruth. Both writers assert that people were not interested in theactualities of the war they were more concerned with the atrocitystories. Hemmingway reveals this sup[position when he writes aboutKrebs’ experience of the war. The author contends that when Krebs’felt the need to narrate the accounts of the battle, no one wasinterested in hearing his version of the story because it was full ofactuality (Hemmingway 1). Krebs’ counterparts had narrated thestories of violence that thrilled the people of Kansas so much that aversion of the real events that took place on the ground seemeduninteresting. As a result, he was forced to begin lying about hisexperience in the war. O`Brien also offers a similar account. Hecontends that a true war story does not encourage virtue, morality,or proper human behavior (O’Brien 1). He adds that a listenerbecomes a victim of a dated lie if he feels uplifted or rescued atthe end of a war story. Tim asserts that the accounts of true warstories are embarrassing. Thus, the two authors offer similarviewpoints, in terms of developing explanations for the events thattake place during the times of war. Similarly, both stories bring therealization that narratives hold a truth even if the facts underdiscussion did not occur.
Ernestand O`Brien suggest that the audience for a story have the power todecide whether the accounts that they hear are true or false. Thisunderstanding comes to the fore in Hemmingway’s book when peopledid not want to hear Krebs’ version of the events that took placein the war (Hemmingway 1). Ernest writes that the town’s people hadlistened to very many war stories that actualities seemed lessintriguing. Thus, no one was interested in hearing his version of thewar stories. This realization forced Krebs to resort to telling liesto catch the attention of the town people. In the same vein, O’Briencontends that a true war story is embarrassing and cannot bebelieved. He adds that the crazy things are usually right, andrationality does not hold water in a war story (O`Brien 3). Thus, thetwo writers imply that the listener determines whether a story istrue or not. O`Brien asserts that people lose their sense ofdefinite thus, their sense of truth is usually abstract.Consequently, one many assume that war stories are never true(O`Brien 8). Hemmingway holds the same position he stated that Krebshad to lie to get people to listen to his war stories (Hemmingway 1).
Nonetheless,in spite of the similarities that both accounts offer, Howto Tell a True War Storyand SoldiersHomebring to the fore the different perspectives of the effect that thewar had on the lives of soldiers. Ernest Hemmingway’s book,SoldiersHome,highlights the plight of a man who is in conflict with his past andhis present. Harold Krebs puts great effort in balancing the beliefsthat he developed in the past with his new convictions. The memoriesthat he had of the war led to the collapse of the teachings of hisguardians. Krebs` parents brought him up with the beliefs that theyheld. Harold had been acquainted with the values that discouragedcheating, stealing, lying, and killing. He had also been taught thatprayer was a very powerful tool. Tim O’Brien’s book relays adifferent perspective of the experience of soldiers after a war. Howto Tell a True War Story revealsthe life of a war soldier called Curt Lemons through a letter. O’Brien seems detached from the tenets that society puts in place.His thinking is somewhat isolated from reality when he says that warstories are never moral (O`Brien 1). His view of life is gloomy sincehe offers vague divisions of the truth and fiction.
Inconclusion, Ernest Hemmingway and Tim O’Brien’s writings havesome characteristics that are common. Both writers use writingtechniques that can be termed as contemporary. In essence, theauthors depict soldiers as normal human beings, highlight thedominance of lies over the truth, and make known the power of theaudience in shaping a story’s genuineness. However, these authorsdiffer when it comes to showing the effect that the war had on thesoldiers. Nevertheless, both writers offer a well-developed breakdownof the experiences of the soldiers after the war, as discussed above.
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