Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Dr. Rachel Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. John Bruni

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Rozema

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sherry Johnson

Academic Year



Within this work, a close study on the relationship between trauma and storytelling is examined through three of Tim O’Brien’s works: The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato, and In the Lake of the Woods. Through the application of psychoanalysis, specifically the work of Jacques Lacan, and modern trauma theory, the relationship between individual identity and the traumatizing encounter of the Real is examined through O’Brien’s concepts of Story Truth versus Happening Truth, as well as how those concepts work together to navigate one’s trauma story. Through weaving the aforementioned theory with each text, O’Brien is seen to intertwine the roles of author, narrator, and character in order to converse through his own trauma story along with the reader. As a result, O’Brien demonstrates the importance of the reader-listener relationship as well as how storytelling can provide a first step towards individual healing.