- Why do you think O’brien placed “The Dentist” directly following “How To Tell a True War Story”?
- Make a list of all the ways you’ll know if a story is a true war story.
- Use your list from #2 to determine if the story of Curt Lemon, as told in How To Tell A True War Story, is a true war story.
- Make connections between this quote and what you know about spin.
War is hell, but that’s not the half of it because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead. (76).
- What’s the deal with the yo-yo (67), (69), (72), (76)? What do yo-yo’s do?
- How is the story of the men in the mountains the same as the story of the baby water buffalo?
- What does O’brien mean when he says, “It wasn’t a war story, it was a love story” (81)?
- What’s the connection between these two quotes?
“In a way, I guess she’s right: I should forget about it. But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget” (33).
“What I should do, she’ll say, is put it all behind me. Find new stories to tell” (81).
- What other stories are referenced in this quote from the end of “How to Tell a True War Story”?
And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It’s about sunlight. It’s about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It’s about love and memory. It’s about sorrow. It’s about sisters who never write back and people who never listen (81).
- Consider these quotes and write a paragraph explaining what “The Dentist” is actually about.
“They carried their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to” (20).
“It was not courage, exactly; the object was not valor. Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards” (21).
“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do” (24).
“I was ashamed of my conscience, ashamed to be doing the right thing” (49).
“I would not do what I should do” (55).
“I would not be brave” (55).
“I would go to war – I would kill and maybe die – because I was embarrassed not to” (57).
“I was a coward. I went to the war” (58).
“The embarrassment must’ve turned a screw in his head” (84).