Catherine Calloway: Metafiction In The Things They Carried By Tim O Brien

1736 Words 7 Pages
In Catherine Calloway’s article, “How to Tell a True War Story”: Metafiction in The Things They Carried, Calloway highlights the inner workings of both the writing style and alternate persona Tim O’Brien creates within the book. By using fiction and introducing different viewpoints, O’Brien is able to strengthen the truth behind the story. In order to tell his story, O’Brien uses many different types of elements, ranging from unfinished works to altering the stories to fit his narrative. However, Calloway claims that this is an autobiography. A generalized autobiography is a recollection of one's’ life written by he or she. In this book, O’Brien writes his stories from other perspectives too, and since a reader may be uncertain of the authenticity, …show more content…
Setting the scene in the beginning lets the reader know that the story he is about to tell is factually true. Throughout this chapter, O’Brien begins different parts with tidbits of information that allow the reader to understand how a “true” war story is constructed. Part of the problem, here, is that O’Brien contradicts himself with each of these lines. He says, “This is true” when referring to his story, yet he says “…a true war story cannot be believed” (68). He wants the reader to understand that his story is true but then he turns around tells them that an actual war story is not something of historical truth. If someone were to tell a true war story, be cautious of it because the teller might not express the true meaning and feelings behind the event, rather what happened exactly as it did. Majority of this chapter is a tug-of-war between what O’Brien knows is true and what he feels should be true. This is what Catherine Calloway highlights in her article, where she states “…the reader is led to question the reality of many, if not all, of the stories in the book” (Calloway 252). The reader wants to know what is true and what is not. This excerpt from her article helps express the general concern a reader would have while reading this book. O’Brien causes this confusion when attempting to tell the story from different viewpoints. This is a moment when using fiction to …show more content…
Throughout the chapter, the reader joins Bowker on a journey around his small town, an expedition to nowhere. Subtle keys in this chapter are what help illustrate a larger picture, about how war truly affects a veteran. O’Brien narrates most of the chapter through his own perspective, describing what Bowker does, his interactions, and his observations. The point in this chapter is for O’Brien to take what Bowker experienced and turn it into a story that the reader can understand. In “Notes,” O’Brien talks about how the main points in “Speaking of Courage” were adapted from a seventeen-page handwritten letter from Bowker to O’Brien. Specifically stated, O’Brien mentions that “The emotional core came directly from Bowker’s letter: the simple need to talk” (152). Further along, O’Brien tells the reader that in order to “provide a dramatic frame, I collapsed events [from the letter] into a single time and place, a car circling a lake on a quiet afternoon in midsummer, using the lake as a nucleus around which the story would orbit” (152). Both of these quotes directly from O’Brien show that his use of fiction is crucial in telling the story. By using fiction, he is able to create a story for the reader, while subtly including details that stemmed directly from Bowker himself. Although that at this point in the chapter the story of Norman Bowker hadn’t been completed, O’Brien

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