The Importance of Metafiction as a Literary Device in the Things ...

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The Importance of Metafiction as a Literary Device in the Things They Carried

By | April 2007
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The Vietnam War was a period of history in which some great pieces of fiction were created. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien is a great example of one of these pieces of fiction. A big part of this novel was O'Brien's theme of metafiction. Metafiction is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. This in another sense means that metafiction is the act of writing about writing. This literary device is used in The Things They Carried, as O'Brien's method to systematically remind his readers that the stories that he is telling are fiction but that sometimes stories can be more real than reality itself. O'Brien explains the concept of stories and what role they serve to the storyteller at the end of one of the chapters in The Things They Carried. "Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story" (pg. 40). O'Brien wants his readers to take note that remembering an event and actually telling a story about the event are two parts of a whole. Stories are pieces of what we remember, tossed in with more interesting and appealing details, to give the outsider a sense of what it might have been like if they were to experience this same occurrence. This is how O'Brien draws his readers into his novel of short stories, by explaining that stories act as a function of our memory. But, that memory and story are two very different things. Sometimes living through an event and actually telling a story about that same event can lead to two very separate anecdotes. Have you ever told a story, but adjusted some of the finer...
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