The inter-relationship between fiction and imagination are critical in the defining the Vietnam war in O’Brien’s book. War is real although the soldiers are fictional. The realities of war and its devastating effects are clearly defined from imaginations of the reader as depicted by the imaginary characters. O’Brien purportedly asserts a piece of information to be factual and later confesses to it being fictitious is evidence that he is consciously aware of the use of both fact and fiction in writing his book.
While advocating that stories can bring dead people back to life the dimensions of imagination and reality are further realized. In context dead people can only be imagined to be alive and live people will factually continue to exist as alive or dead people are actually dead and will factually remain to be dead. O’Brien continually reaffirms to the reader about the authenticity of the story of Rat Kiley slowly killing a baby water buffalo and despite the fact that the reader knows pretty well that it is fictional they actually accept it as factual.
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The existence of social codes and contracts in the platoons become arbitrary. Thieves for example are punished by others to create fear in others in committing the same bad unacceptable acts in society. The relationship between Jensen and Strunk and the social contract they make is much evidence of the increasing social pressure caused by the ravages of war.
Most of the social pressure in the book is evident in the quests to prove one’s bravery. Another good example of the social pressure is in the intensity of war and honor is revealed when in chapter eight Curt Lemon has a tooth pulled out just to prove he is not afraid of the dentist.