Lives in Story: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried

  • Sarah Foust Vinson
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Life Writing book series (PSLW)


Beginning with an exploration of the theoretical definition of autofiction and what distinguishes it from autobiography, Foust Vinson’s essay first examines what is at stake in making such a distinction, before moving to an analysis of how Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried employs autofictive elements to explore the history of the Vietnam War. The chapter considers how O’Brien consciously complicates the lines between fact and fiction to draw the readers’ attention to the notion that history and memory are always tied up in narrative and story, and even while such understandings of the past may be constructed or inauthentic, they can still help us to better engage with and understand our histories and ourselves.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Foust Vinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Cardinal Stritch UniversityMilwaukeeUSA

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