The main character in the short story “How to Tell a True War Story” by Tim O’Brien is the narrator. The narrator’s experiences are inspired by O’Brien’s experience in the war, but the character is fictional and semi-autobiographical. 

Other important characters mentioned in the story are Bob Kiley – who tries to cope with the death of his friend, Curt Lemon – and Mitchell Sanders – who tells a story about a listening-post operation gone wrong. Several other soldiers are mentioned in the story and help the narrator build a complex image of the war. 

You can read a full analysis of the narrator, Bob Kiley, and Mitchell Sanders on the following pages. 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

After each story, the narrator tries to analyze what a war story truly means and, implicitly, to come to terms with the trauma he has experienced in Vietnam. Although he tells different stories, he constantly returns to the one about Curt Lemon’s death: “Twenty years later, I can still see the sunlight on Lemon’s face” (p. 9, l. 17). The...

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