Tim O’Brien, a novelist and story teller, explain in his novel “The Things They Carried” characteristics of a well told war story. He captures the Iraq war through vivid and emotional narratives of soldiers and their families. On the other hand, David Finkel as a journalist employs the tool of storytelling in his novel “The Good soldiers” to capture the Iraq war stories. Journalists are usually charged with reporting facts rather than telling stories that may be biased, and untrue. The fact that Finkel deviates from reporting facts to storytelling brings out the advantages of storytelling over the fact reporting in capturing true war stories.
O’Brien’s Novel “A True War Story”
In the novel “A true war story”, O’Brien suggests some characteristics that a war story should capture. He suggests that a factual war tale is not about the war. In the novel, he concentrates his attention on the soldiers narrating their experiences throughout the wartime. They narrate their experiences during the 18-day vacations away from the FOB Rustamiyah, Iraq. He captures how and what the soldiers do during their leaving the camp. The soldiers give emotional stories of how they miss their families. Some suffer emotional tortures as due to inability to reach their loved ones. An example is the sniper soldier who calls his wife at one o’clock in the morning, and she does not answer (O’Brien 178). Some soldiers go to the extent of getting married within the 18-day vacations. The novel provides personal recounts of the occurrences of the militaries in Iraq and their families. Storytelling provides a superior way of delivering the war stories to the audience. Therefore, Finkel may be telling the truth by using the tool.
On the other hand, David Finkel also deviates from the Iraq war itself. He chooses to capture the experiences of the soldiers like lieutenant-colonel Kauzlarich. The ideals of the journalism profession emphasize on facts rather than the other side stories. He chooses to deviate from the norm, partly due to the superiority of storytelling in capturing war stories. The advantage of making the audiences believe shows the prevalence of storytelling. Stories like that of lieutenant-colonel Kauzlarich, who has suffered an emotional breakdown and then was sent home despite being one of the most competent soldiers, and who gives the audience a firsthand insight (Finkel 173). The emotional recounting of the speech he delivers at the funeral of one of his soldiers makes the reader get the picture. He says of the soldiers in the audience at the funeral who have suffered physical damage such as losing their legs, arms or bullet wounds. This shows the powerfulness of storytelling as employed by Finkel compared to reporting of facts in wartime stories.
Another characteristic suggested by O’Brien is that a true war story cannot separate what happened from what seemed to happen. A true war story does not give facts rather views of the characters on the situation. Different individuals during the war have different experiences. Each of them recounts different stories of single events. One character may view an event that the other was not privileged to witness. They may witness the same situation but give different versions depending on their views. An example is lieutenant-colonel Kauzlarich narrating of how he was in his trailer, in the FOB, when the bombs went off (O’Brien 175). He says he covered his head in apprehension for death. He felt afraid, and could not wait to leave Iraq for America. He explains his lack of will power even to crash a bug crawling nearby that he would have otherwise done a few weeks ago. Brent Cumming explains his predicaments that his wife would not understand him if he explained her or the lack of reason to give details on the situation to a fellow soldier. The experiences of the war, such as walking into a room painted with blood and realizing the torture had just taken place, made Brent sick. Therefore, war stories do not narrate what happened, but rather give the views of witnesses on the events. Finkel ignores reporting of definite facts.
David Finkel recognizes this, therefore, does not attempt to go for the facts. He chooses to use a story telling in his novel. He recognizes the weaknesses of trying to capture what certainly happened in the war situation. He could have failed to establish the facts of the war within Iraq. This is ascribed to the reality that different individuals have different versions of similar events. The soldiers through the experiences they go through in daily missions in Iraq have different views of situations. Some soldiers often undergo debriefing in the “combat stress” office after undergoing disturbing situations. Lieutenant-colonel Kauzlarich had to undergo debriefing after witnessing the body parts of three of his soldiers sprayed in a Baghdad road. Other soldiers also have experienced debriefing after events like losing their fellow soldiers. The events became too much for some that devised strategies to get home. The soldier who undressed and stood on top of a Baghdad police station was believed to be sane. Therefore, war stories are best captured through storytelling rather than establishing facts. It is often complicated to split the truth from the perceptions of the storytellers. This is the reason why Finkel deviates to storytelling as a tool.
The third characteristic of stories of war is that it never ends. He suggests that stories have many angles through which they can be explored. All soldiers have different experiences from the war. O’Brien suggests that someone cannot capture all the stories; therefore, they never end. An individual may seek the opinion of the family to capture their view. O’Brien seeks the opinion of Laura Cumming, the wife of Brent Cumming (Finkel 186). He also seeks the opinion of families of other soldiers in Iraq. Different soldiers would give differing accounts of the events of the day when two trucks carrying supplies for the FOB exploded shaking every building in it. Lieutenant-colonel Kauzlarich gives his account of how he ducked in his trailer (Finkel 174). Other soldiers in the camp may have different accounts of the perceived threats on their lives. The magnitudes of stories that can be captured in a war situation imply the characteristic by O’Brien of them not ending. He suggests the futility of trying to capture every story. That is why, he uses the tool of storytelling to capture the truth of war he can in his book.
Finkel’s Novel “The Good Soldier”
Finkel recognizes this in his novel “The Good Soldier”. He realizes that he may not be capable to ascertain the truth, which is conclusive. Although having a journalism background where facts are emphasized, he decides to capture voices of the soldiers serving in Iraq and sentiments of their families. He tells the stories of lieutenant colonel Kauzlarich in the course of serving the war in Iraq. He captures the individual feelings and emotions of soldiers like Jeffrey Sauer (Finkel 173). He is tense about his deployment to serve in the war. All they can do is reminisce about all the soldiers they have lost in the war. He captures the hopes and dreams that now cannot be achieved. Some of the soldiers had fiancées whom they hoped to marry while some had kids whom they probably could not meet again. Therefore, Finkel employs storytelling to capture the aspect of non-ending nature of war stories. He is telling the truth. The futility of establishing facts is due to many tales by the soldiers and their families.
Finally, O’Brien suggests that war stories do not have morals. While on leave from Iraq, after suffering a breakdown, Brent Cumming is asked by one of his friends whether the war was justified. He fails to answer the question on the morality of President Bush (O’Brien 191). He gives an account of how a young girl who waved at a procession of American soldiers was slapped across the face by a man in the street. This draws a reaction from Cumming who threats to jail or kill the man if he dares do that again. The event shows feelings of the local population towards the mission of American soldiers. They probably detest the war. This shows that war cannot be justified by morality issues. Therefore, due to the events that occur during the war, war stories cannot have morals.
Finkel applies this in his novel. He does not appeal to morality as a theme of the novel. A true war story should not advance morals due to the situations that occur during the war such as death. He recounts personal experiences of soldiers at service in the war. Through these personal stories, he shows how young men with fiancées and children have lost their lives. Lieutenant-colonel Kauzlarich shows pictures of those soldiers who had come to Iraq with immense dreams but end up losing their lives (Finkel 173). The morality of war cannot be justified as it arises more morality issues that were not anticipated. The effort to preserve law and order in Iraq, results in losing lives of American and local people and also other issues like family separations and breakdowns. Therefore, a true war story is thought not to possess a moral inclination. Finkel uses storytelling to capture some of the morality issues facing all the war stakeholders.
In conclusion, stories of war best achieve their targets if they use storytelling. Narrating personal experiences of various stakeholders affected by the war gives a superior device for delivering those stories. On the other hand, just giving facts on the war may not achieve its desired effect. Therefore, both David Finkel and Tim O’Brien use storytelling in the war story novels as they bring out the truth and other desired characteristics in war stories.