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“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel Essay


Unlike most journalistic items, the selection that we go through from David Finkel’s book, The Good Soldiers, is a slightly different presentation of a war story. This is because aside from telling of the event’s that happen in the battle field, Finkel intends to give a view of the life of the soldiers when with their families.

It, therefore, becomes imperative for him to depend on stories told to him or to other people in the shaping of his writing. This essay seeks to argue that Finkel, in his story, is telling the truth and to this end, a critical evaluation of the elements that define a war story shall be carried out before an indepth analysis of the presentation of each of the elements in the story is given.

Is Finkel telling the truth or not

One of the primary reasons as to why the story by Finkel is convincing, as far as truthfulness is concerned, is that it is told in an unending way. This is in tandem with O’Brien’s principles of war story writing (75).

Finkel picks up stories of different characters and intertwines them is one complete whole, but still leaves the reader desiring to read more about the characters.

For instance, the Cumming’s story takes us back and forth, using flashbacks on how he enjoys time with his family and then brings us to the present to his relationships with colleagues in the battlefront.

The notes we make from the chapter, How to tell a war story, point us to the fact that a true war story is one that makes it difficult to distinguish what happened to what did not (O’Brien 67). The O’Brien story is definitely true because there are so many items presented that one would dismiss as untrue from first glance.

These, coupled with elements that one would outrightly believe make it a little bit difficult to place the story, as far as truthfulness is concerned. For instance, the story of the young soldier who describes his experience out of the army as fun-filled is to a large extent unbelievable (Finkel, 181-183).

This is especially because he brings in stories of having fun with his family in which stripers are involved and him drinking himself silly. These are some of the items one would pick from a conversation of college students and this is why it is difficult to believe that a soldier, who is on a mission to serve his country, would crave such immorality and even practice it.

The story by Finkel easily makes one believe the conversations it brings as true because it does not generalize. It presents each item as its own unit and leaves the reader with a clear to indulge in the beauty and ugliness of war.

By Finkel using the perspective of different characters in shaping his story, we are able to see the positives and negatives of war. The story on Cummingham’s relations with his son, give a human face to the characters behind wars, and actually leaves one admiring the lives of the soldiers and lessons picked from the battlefronts.

The Adam Schumann story (Finkel 185-186) on the other hand makes one see the lives of soldiers as full of gloom and stress. This is well presented in the manifestation of Schumann’s development of suicidal tendencies.

In this regard, Finkel gives the reader both the good and bad aspects of war, thereby leaving the reader to decide for himself on what conclusion to draw.

To some extent, the story by Finkel is not entirely truthful and this conclusion is arrived at after analyzing a number of elements using O’Brien’s criterion as discussed next.

From the chapter, How to tell a war story, the first key characteristics of a good war story is that it lacks a moral grounding (O’Brien 66). In this sense, a good and ultimately factual war story is not supposed to leave someone with a good picture of the warzone and the soldiers’ relations.

Using this criterion, Finkel’s story is not the ideal presentation of a war story because after going through one is almost tempted to desire the lives of the soldiers.

This is because it shows them longing to have interactions with family and friend and then goes ahead to describe such interactions as being happy and fulfilling.

For instance, when Brent Cummings tells the story of how he spent his leave days, the reader is left with nothing but admiration for his effort at making his son happy (Finkel 180-181). Cummings goes home and finds his son driving a beaten up truck and decides to part with $17,000 and get him a new vehicle.

From what we have learned about war, we came to the conclusion that it is supposed to make individuals hardened and insensitive to the needs of others. As such, a believable version of this story would be if Cummings had instead of buying his son a new car, would have told him to get rid of the junk he was driving and make sure he had bought himself a new car by the time he (Cummings) was coming back for his next leave.

The second reason as to why the story by Finkel is not entirely convincing is that it shies away from obscenity and instead the writer insists on using language that is socially acceptable. According to O’Brien (66), the truth and obscenity are synonymous with each other.

Most of the article can actually be read by children as young as thirteen and which is contrary to what is expected of a war story. However, to some extent the writer takes this criterion into consideration with some random usage of words such as fucking pussy (Finkel 187). Unfortunately, he uses such phrases when it is absolutely necessary. Readers expect a war story to be present in a ‘hard-core’ way, full of vulgarism and strong language.


In conclusion, and this is in view of the discussions made above, the story by Finkel, the journalist, is true because the elements that make the story believable outweigh those that do not. It has been discovered that the story has been told in unending way as it introduces newer characters and stories, while at the same time making an effort of sawing them together into one complete unit.

Aside from this, Finkel’s story also makes it hard to separate truth from fiction. This is, however, not by default as the author only relates what he picked from other individuals and therefore had no control over what would be said. Finally the author also makes a point of not generalizing items and actually leaves room for the reader to draw personal conclusions based on how he perceives matters.

Works Cited

Finkel, David. The good soldiers. United States: Atlantic Books, 2010. Print.

O’Brien, Tim. The things they carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.

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"“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel." IvyPanda, 6 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-good-soldiers-by-david-finkel/.

1. IvyPanda. "“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel." December 6, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-good-soldiers-by-david-finkel/.


IvyPanda. "“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel." December 6, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-good-soldiers-by-david-finkel/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel." December 6, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-good-soldiers-by-david-finkel/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel'. 6 December.

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