Good Form

O'Brien, Tim

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Jul-05-1999
  • Last revised: Aug-22-2006


The narrator, a writer who was a soldier in Vietnam, discusses what he calls "story-truth" and "happening-truth." Telling stories, he says, can "make things present." The narrator challenges the reader to determine whether or not the tragic wartime episode that he describes really occurred. At the same time, he makes clear that it is "story-truth" that gives meaning to life.


This brief digression into a consideration of storytelling (appearing on page 203) within the larger book of stories about soldiering in the Vietnam war makes an interesting adjunct to any of the other stories in The Things They Carried. The author, who was a foot soldier in Vietnam for one year, emphasizes the importance of narrative in making whatever sense can be made out of chaos and tragedy.


First published by Houghton Mifflin in 1990.

Primary Source

The Things They Carried



Place Published

New York



Page Count