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Read this excerpt about the Vietnam War from Tim O’Brien’s “Good Form”:
I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.
Here is the happening-truth. I was once a soldier.
There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I’m left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.
Here is the story-truth. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay in the center of a red clay trail near the village of My Khe. . . . I killed him.
What stories can do, I guess, is make things present.
I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again.
“Daddy, tell the truth,” Kathleen can say, “did you ever kill anybody?” And I can say, honestly, “Of course not.”
Or I can say, honestly, “Yes.”
Question: How does the author’s specific word choice and stylistic devices affect the excerpt’s tone? Be sure to use specific details from the text to support your answer.
Read this excerpt from “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan in which Tan recounts the Christmas Eve dinner:
And then they arrived — the minister’s family and all my relatives in a clamor of doorbells and rumpled Christmas packages. Robert grunted hello, and I pretended he was not worthy of existence.
Dinner threw me deeper into despair. My relatives licked the ends of their chopsticks and reached across the table, dipping them into the dozen or so plates of food. Robert and his family waited patiently for platters to be passed to them. My relatives murmured with pleasure when my mother brought out the whole steamed fish. Robert grimaced. Then my father poked his chopsticks just below the fish eye and plucked out the soft meat. “Amy, your favorite,” he said, offering me the tender fish cheek. I wanted to disappear.
At the end of the meal my father leaned back and belched loudly, thanking my mother for her fine cooking. “It’s a polite Chinese custom to show you are satisfied,” explained my father to our astonished guests. Robert was looking down at his plate with a reddened face. The minister managed to muster up a quiet burp. I was stunned into silence for the rest of the night.
Question: How does this excerpt illustrate the theme of cultural conflict that persists throughout the story? Be sure to use specific details from the text to support your answer.
Read this excerpt from the poem, “Facing It,” about the Vietnam War, by Yusef Komunyakaa:
I turn this way—I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
close to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.
Question: Describe the aesthetic impact the author intends for this excerpt to have on the reader. Be sure to use specific details from the text to support your answer.