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The Things They Carried As A Piece of Metafiction
Transcript of The Things They Carried As A Piece of Metafiction
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The Things They Carried
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What specific instances of metafiction can you find in the novel? Discuss the novel as a work of metafiction, as well as the fact that the character of “O’Brien” represents both the young foot soldier, and the middle-aged author.
What is Metafiction?
Metafiction:"a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality("Theories of Metafiction")".
a piece of fiction that "breaks the fourth wall"
the author can do this in many different ways
1. addressing the audience directly
2. pointing out its own fictionality-through devices like anachronisms
How is The Things They Carried An Example of Metafiction?
Throughout the novel O'Brien points out how most war stories are untrue
O'Brien also talks to the reader directly many times throughout the novel
"Right here, now, as I invent myself, I'm thinking of all I want to tell you about why this book is written as it is. For instance, I want to tell you this: twenty years ago I watched a man die on a trail near the village of My Khe. I did not kill him. But I was present, you see, and my presence was guilt enough(O'Brien 120)".
In this quote the author both breaks down the fourth wall and experiences an emotional catharsis.
"A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage
virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men
from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do
not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel
that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste,
then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie (O'Brien 51)".
Above again O'Brian breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader directly
Additionally he points out his book's own fictionality
The Narrator of O'Brien as the young soldier in Vietnam and the Forty-Three Year Old Writer
The Things They Carried, portrays the narrator, Tim O'Brien in two different ways: as the young foot soldier fighting in Vietnam and the middle-aged writer coping with the traumatizing experiences of his youth
"I'm forty-three years old, true, and I'm a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier(O'Brien 120)".
As a foot soldier:"I was shot twice. The first time, out by Tri Binh, it knocked me against the pagoda wall, and I bounced and spun around and ended up on Rat Kiley's lap. A lucky thing, because Rat was the medic. He tied on a compress and told me to ease back, then ran off toward the fighting. For a long time I lay there all alone, listening to the battle, thinking I've been shot, I've been shot...(O"Brien 126)".
The quote above shows the thoughts and feelings of a young foot soldier recounted many years later.
As a writer: "A few months after completing "In the Field," I returned with my daughter to Vietnam, where we visited the site of Kiowa's death, and where I looked for signs of forgiveness or personal grace or whatever else the land might offer. The field was still there, though not as I remembered it. Much smaller, I thought, and not nearly so menacing, and in the bright sunlight it was hard to picture what had happened on this ground some twenty years ago(O'Brien 121)".
The quote above shows incite into O'Brien's experience confront a place that one of his most vivid and horrifying memories took place. It shows the author making peace with an experience that has haunted him for so long.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien can be considered a piece of metafiction because:
O'Brien often breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly, and discusses:
war stories and how most are fictionalized to more believable
his feelings on a certain experience and how it has effected him
The Things They Carried shows two sides of O'Brien: the young soldier and the mature writer, recounting events and then looking back at them using his perspective of a middle-aged writer.
Friedlander, Michele. "Metafiction and O'Brien's The Things They Carried." Sample Student Essays. N.p., n.d. Google. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://core.ecu.edu/engl/whisnantl/4300/michele.htm>.
O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York, New York: First Broadway Books, 1998. 1-163. Google. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://corysnow.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/ttc-full-text.pdf>.
Theories of Metafiction. N.p., n.d. Google. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://www.eng.fju.edu.tw/Literary_Criticism/postmodernism/metafiction.htm#Definitions>.