The fiction/ autobiography status of the book really confused me and I was frustrated that O’Brien was not up front about what part was true or false. Although, this frustration still lingers, the interviews we watched and the discussions we had in class has made this frustration easier to cope with. I actually thought O’Brien had a daughter and that all the stories he and his daughter did were factual, so when I discovered he only had sons I was disappointed. Similarly to our discussion in class, O’Brien mentions that the meaning behind each story in the novel is more important than understanding which story is true or false.
In the interview, O’Brien discussed this topic perfectly. I can now appreciate why he wrote this novel the way he did instead of trying to fool and confuse his audience. His goal was to try to “capture the heart, stomach, and back of the throat of readers who can lie in bed at night and participate in a story.” O’Brien knew if he wrote a plain “war story” like those in a magazine, the title would already abstract readers from being interested. To prevent this from happening, he wrote a story which, from his experience, would allow readers to become involved in the story instead of just reading the words. This is why O’Brien enjoys literature and that is what he hoped to give to others: to want to participate in the novel itself. In my opinion, he conquered his goal. With this knowledge, I am able to fully understand the reasoning behind his writing style.
I would continue to call the novel fiction, because I think there is more fiction than fact in the novel, but I no longer think that is a negative thing. Just like Foster ingrained in our minds, writers do what they have to do in order to make their meaning blunt and to tell the readers what they want them to hear and O’Brien used this strategy to his benefit.