The Things They Carried Literary Analysis

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  • Topic: Fiction, Vietnam War, Novel
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  • Published : September 12, 2012
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Literary Analysis of The Things They Carried: Metafiction
            Tim O’Brien brings the characters and stories to life in The Things They Carried. He uses a writing style that brings stories to life by posing questions between the relationship of reality and fiction (Calloway 249). This is called metafiction and it exposes the truth through the literary experience. Tim O’Brien uses metafiction to make the characters and stories in The Things They Carried realistically evocative of the Vietnam War.             Metafiction is found early in the novel, The Things They Carried. Tim O’Brien, the protagonist of the novel, has many similarities to the author of The Things They Carried. The author and the protagonist both share the same name, Tim O’Brien; they are both writers and veterans of the Vietnam War. These similarities pose questions on whether the character “Tim O’Brien”1 is based off of the author Tim O’Brien. However, differences between the real and fictitious Tim O’Brien, such as the character has a daughter named Kathleen while Tim O’Brien does not, leads to second guesses on if Tim O’Brien bases “Tim O’Brien”, off of himself (Calloway 249). By mixing fact and fiction, Tim O’Brien creates a realistic and believable character. “Tim O’Brien’s” experiences that he goes through could be experiences Tim O’Brien went through. Since the stories and characters in the novel could be authentic, the stories and “Tim O’Brien” are more conceivable. Confusing fact and fiction makes “Tim O’Brien” more realistic, and brings feelings of the Vietnam War to life.

In each chapter characters in The Things They Carried tell their own stories about the Vietnam War. Some of the stories seem to be the truth and other stories are so outlandish they seem to be lies. Yet each story creates sensations about the Vietnam War, characters achieve this by using metafiction in their own stories. Characters create sensations by telling these exaggerated stories (Calloway 249). One...
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