“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Essay


The objective of the following text is to elaborate making use of meta-fiction and narrative layering in Tim OʼBrienʼs The Important Things They Finished composing a narrated interview with Tim OʼBrien concerning Part Fourʼs research study: Literature and Crucial Research Study. Utilizing quotations/transcriptions of Tim OʼBrienʼs statements within the imaginary interview will support the structure of the text appropriately as a narrative of an interview. Initially, I will resolve Tim OʼBrienʼs quick bio regarding his profession, education and works.

The narrative will continue with an introduction from the job interviewer, briefly regarding his works and the incorporation of observed application of meta-fiction and narrative layering. Then, a personal acknowledgement of making use of meta-fiction and narrative layering in his work, The Things They Carried, will be pointed out quietly and indirectly.

A number of methods utilized to break down Tim OʼBrienʼs work in objectives to determine the usage of these literary devices will be dealt with– then the narration will be preceded by numerous questions and responses attending to the application, role, and function of the usage of meta-fiction and narrative layering; this will be supported by direct contextual examples from the text studied. A short re-cap on the definitions of both literary gadgets will be dealt with. The closing of the interview aims to highlight the coherent application and purpose of these techniques in the intervieweeʼs work.

Narrated Fictional Interview

Tim OʼBrien, an American citizen, is acknowledged as an author and/or a short story writer. He is highly acknowledged for his work, The important things They Carried. His works are under the genre of memoirs and war stories, more particularly those associated with the Vietnam War, or as he would refer to it as the Vietnam Conflict. Neal Conan and Michiko Kakutani defines his work, The Things They Carried, as “a critically acclaimed collection of semiautobiographical, inter-related short-stories influenced by O’Brien’s experiences in the Vietnam War.” A stellar student, he was the president of the student body and made his degree in Government in 1968– after he graduated, instead of paving his own career path, he was prepared to sign up with the United States Army. Sent out to Vietnam, he was on responsibility up until the 1970s. After his task, he continued his studies in Harvard University, which lead him to his career as an author. After being drafted and earning his graduate school degree, Tim OʼBrien composed in his narrative, “Can the infantryman teach anything important about war, simply for having existed? I think not. He can tell war stories.” And so he did simply that, he told war stories.

Having the benefit of interviewing him personally, I resolved and recognized him for his excellent works– both for serving in Vietnam and his works as a writer. I planned to ask him concerning his work, The Things They Carried, to ask him relating to the observations of the use of meta-fiction and narrative layering. I believed to myself in the start of the interview, how ironic it was to ask him about his experiences in the Vietnam War (or Vietnam Conflict) while I already checked out an entire book based upon his individual war stories. I chose to resolve my ironic thoughts and he reacted, “Didnʼt you understand? The ʻTimʼ I mentioned repeatedly in the book, is not based on me, Tim OʼBrien, itʼs a fictional character I embedded within the book! I honestly, did not refer to the genuine experience I came across, rather I referred to my own fictional narratives.” Before I asked him my scripted questions, he led the interview towards the 2 subjects I was to talk about, narrative layering and meta-fiction.

Based on everything2.com, the characteristics of works that utilize both these literary devices consist of the recommendation to itself along with the creation and/or conversation of fictional works by fictitious characters. Tim OʼBrienʼs works can be broken down when intending to recognize the application of meta-fiction and narrative layering.

Within Mentioning Guts, a character ʻTimʼ exists. Written in 3rd individual narrative, and having the same name as the author, I personally believed that Tim, the character, was Tim, the author. Though the literal Tim OʼBrien attended to that “I am Tim, Tim OʼBrien, however Tim is not me.” I offered him a blank look, trying to comprehend his point then I recognized that he used narrative layering within his work. The very first layer can be considered as when Tim, the character, found out about Bowkerʼs story, then the story result in the 2nd layer at which Tim, the author, made it seem like Bowker is retelling the story. In reality, the entire story itself, is told by a fictional narrator, this discovery is and can be seen as the 3rd and last layer.

This discovery shows both the application of meta-fiction and narrative layering as it composes fiction based upon fiction and is narrated by layers of fiction characters. Even within the beginning pages of the unique, though insignificantly pointed out, it is stated that it is a “work of fiction” and “lovingly devoted to the men of Alpha Business, … Jimmy Cross, Norman Bowker, Rat Kiley, … and Kiowa”. “Did you understand? I schemed the writing of that page to boost the reality that this entire book is an imaginary piece. Tim, the character– the fictional character, wrote this page, not Tim as in myself,” he smirked while discussing.

“Within Notes, I began writing by referring to Mentioning Nerve, that in itself can reveal that I referred to my own fictional work– that is meta-fiction,” he clarified. Whilst in On A Rainy River, a statement brings upon the referral of itself– as specified above, this technique can be utilized to recognize the usage of meta-fiction. The storyteller of the story discusses, “Now, perhaps, you can understand why Iʼve never ever informed this story before.” (Pg. 54)– the storyteller attends to the story within the story.

The story How to Tell A True War Story is the embodiment of a meta-fiction-filled work. It begins stating, “This holds true,” (Pg. 64), then leads to the confusion of readers that if a war story “appears ethical, do not think it,” as it is a “very old and horrible lie.” (Pg. 65) Every meaning of a ʻtrueʼ war story within is alternatingly opposed through the differing versions of the fictional characterʼs stories. Patricia Waugh declares that meta-fiction-filled work “selfconsciously and systematically accentuates its status as an artifact in order to posture questions about the relationship in between fiction and truth,” at which is all present within this story.

Seemingly noticeable within his work, Tim OʼBrien demonstrates the usage of both literary decices. Acknowledging the aid of these literary gadgets, he specifies that narrative layering makes “the source product more powerful and the core story

more engaging.”1 While the other literary device, meta-fiction is specified as the act of writing about writing, acts as a tool to remind readers that although the narratives he writes are fiction, “often stories can be more genuine than reality itself.” Utilizing it to the level of “foregrounding the fiction of fiction and truth,”2– he uses meta-fiction as how John Barth specifies it. He writes based on the replica of novels/narrative fictions instead of writing fictions based on truth, unquestionably present, his works reveal uncomfortable examinations of fiction by referring to itself. Written with excellence, Tim OʼBrienʼs works uses both literary devices– he explores completely, the purpose of writing.

Goldhammer, G. (2013 ). Layered Narrative Storytelling: A Journalistic Standard for Producing

Content. Last accessed 23rd May 2014.

Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. NY: Routledge, 1984.

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