Postmodernism And Metafiction Techniques In Tim O'Brien's Novel ‘The Things They Carried’
In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien he uses postmodernization and metafiction techniques to take the reader deeper into the novel. Tim O’Brien tells these stories through multiple different characters perspective and many different trains of thoughts by O’Brien. This novel is mainly focused on the lives of American soldiers stationed in vietnam during the war. Tim O’Brien uses various techniques of postmodernism and metafiction to fully submerge the reader into this text and show them the real life of a soldier in the Vietnam war.
‘Metafiction’ is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact (a piece of writing) in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually using irony and self-reflection.Metafiction does not let the reader forget he or she is reading a fictional work.” (postmodernism and metafiction presentation). The first piece of metafiction i found was important was stated by Tim O’Brien on page 158.
‘By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify what happened.’
This quote shows how ‘O’Brien describes how the idea of writing liberated him from the horrors of war and how when he wrote he objectified his own experienced’. So what O’Brien is trying to show with this quote is the big theme of fact vs fiction, this theme shows how characters in this story like to almost change the whole story to make it more appealing for them and the audience. It’s kind of like as you get older you only really remember the core of the story so you add some stuff on to the story that makes it sound better, but the problem is people tend to change some stories to make them feel better inside without thinking about it also. Let’s say you just got a 20 on a test and the class average was a 80, you will tend to either blame the teacher or will relate to the other kids who failed and say it was a “very unfair test” because you just don’t want to say you didn’t study or weren’t taking notes in class which is the real reason you failed not the teachers fault. Another quote that helps support my point is stated by O’Brien again on page 71.
The pictures get jumbled; you tend to miss a lot. And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed. Sometimes things happen to us so quickly, that when we tell the story, it isn’t exactly what actually went down, it is really a corrupt story with kind of the same plot. Like if i’m playing a lacrosse game for all four quarters i may not remember every single thing that happened because my adrenaline was up and may tend to exaggerate plays that really were nothing. Now take what i just said and think about that in Vietnam during the war, think about how mentally deprived and delusional those guys were all the time over there because of this war. This is just another way to show how corrupt these stories can be under the circumstances of all out war.
Tim O’Brien uses postmodernization to fully submerge the reader into this text and show them the real life of a soldier in the vietnam war. “Postmodern literature is literature characterized by heavy reliance on techniques like fragmentation, paradox, and questionable narrators, and is often (though not exclusively) defined as a style or trend which emerged in the post–World War II Era. Modern and Postmodern literature explore subjectivism, turning from external reality to examine inner states of consciousness” (postmodernism and metafiction presentation). One quote that shows this is on page 78 O’Brien states.. “In a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true” because you “lose your sense of definite.”
This quote from Tim O’Brien shows how the character in the novel will tend to take their stories and alter them to make them more interesting or more like a “true war story”.
“Postmodern writing allows for variation in narrative styles, syntax, and other stylistic devices while also, in the case of The Things They Carried, making the reader think about what is a “story” and what is “real.”. It makes sense that O’Brien mentions that a true war story is never really true because these men are so caught up and not everything they say is true because they may want it to sound more war like.
Another quote that shows O’Brien’s use of postmodernization is stated on page 152. “You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and. you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain”.
This quote just helps to show the real reason O’Brien uses postmodernization in this novel. He shows how in a “true war story” there is a lot of fragmentation, the part of the story where you have the main base to the story but after that the story can almost become fiction. Now that brings up the fact vs fiction question again where the stories can differ every time you tell it and will move from fact to fiction very easily.