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Tim Obrien’s The Things They Carried is a perfect example of American Contemporary, also known as postmodern, literature, mainly supporting the characteristics of metafiction, and mixture of fiction and facts, all of which are commonly used throughout all forms of postmodern literature. Because this era is current, how it will have on impact on literature still remains to be seen, but what is clear is how the contemporary era has opened a new door to literature allowing people to view the world in a whole different manner also allowing authors to be freer in expressing ideas in their literature.
Contemporary literature refers to literature written from 1945 to present. It is often referred to as the era directly after World War II. This era shares many of the characteristics introduced in the modern era, but is unique in the sense that the openness found in this literature is greater. Contemporary literature also has the tendency to contradict modernist thought and brings things into new light. It deals with events and issues within this time frame and for that reason we are able to comprehend a greater deal than before. It allows the reader to feel connected to the novel in a way that wasn’t possible before. What both modernism and contemporary literature share is subjectivism. Modernist literature however saw fragmentation and extreme subjectivity as an existential crisis. In contemporary literature this crisis is avoided. It is more common to find self-consciously deconstructed and self-reflexive narrators unlike in modern literature it was all about the anti-heroes and tortured souls. There is great inner narrative of the self in contemporary. This includes the self at war with itself, to the self as arbiter points back to the phenomenological roots of post-modern thought.
As far as linguistic and stylistic characteristics go, contemporary literature has an open form of writing, allowing a writer to be freer with their thoughts and ideas. It is also common to find discontinuous narrative in these works. Intersexuality or borrowing and transformation of certain ideas form other texts is also quiet present in contemporary literature, often borrowing from past modern thought as well. There is an extensive use of classical allusions within the style. What is very interesting about contemporary is its tendency not only to borrow ideas, but the sharing of these ideas and themes that is found in other languages and cultures showing how wide of a spectrum contemporary literature is willing to go. These themes and ideas are often compared and combined. But with all its uniqueness, the thing that makes contemporary stand out from the rest is its unusual usage of metaphors in its literature. This has added richness to this type of literature that many will appreciate. Contemporary literatures themes also set this era greatly apart from the rest. It has the tendency to shatter existing social customs and faiths, and focus more on depicting vividly the stark and bitter realities. This era of literature is heavily influenced by the severity of the scientific and technological changes of the 20th century.
The famous authors and works of thisperiod are vast. Each author has their unique style and way of writing, but each share the same type of freedom found in contemporary literature. No point of view or way of thinking is excluded, but rather embraced and exposed to give insight into completely different worlds that we as people may not be to familiar with, but nevertheless are able to understand on some level. J.D Salinger, famous for the novel The Catcher in The Rye, proves this by giving us a glimpse into the mind of a young adolescent boy Holden who seems to be lost in his own mind. This novel greatly supports the man vs himself theme commonly found throughout contemporary literature.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien truly expresses exactly what contemporary literature is. Tim O’Brien skillfully places all his ideas and own experiences into this collection of stories that make this an excellent piece of contemporary literature. He does everything to make these stories feel as real as possible. Tim O’Brien, which also happens to be the main characters name, does this by mixing reality with fiction, a technique commonly found throughout contemporary literature. From his own experiences of the Vietnam War he is able to capture the ugly truths and the harsh, raw, human emotions that real human beings feel. He expresses the dilemma people go through in making rash decisions, and the guilt and pain found in people who went to Vietnam, so accurately it causes one to almost feel these emotions themselves and allows the reader to connect on a level never really possible before the postmodern era. O’Brien does an excellent job in making the novel feel as real as possible, which is not quite a necessary characteristic of contemporary literature, but is commonly used and effectively causes a richer literary experience. He said once “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” He expresses this view through all the work he does. Although he did experience many of the things he speaks of on some level, he never lets his stories become more than fiction. It is the fiction that represents and reflects our world that makes the real impact on people. Literature is just another form of art. Art serves to represent parts of reality and allow us to see reality in ways we didn’t before. The same applies to contemporary literature and the way Tim O’Brien tries to capture his audience. His purpose is not to just tell his stories of the war, but to tell these stories in a way that will allow us to reflect and connect on our own lives. He said “It’s partly a story about what happens to men in a war, but more deeply it touches people to actually look at their own lives and childhoods. The reason that book ends not in the war, but with little Linda dying of brain cancer, is that that chapter is meant to move away from war to the lives of all of us.” In doing this the war and its horrors serve as more than just stories of hardships and pain, but as well as a tool that allows these stories to truly serve a purpose.
It is still unclear what time of impact our era will make on history, but it is clear however that contemporary literature is greatly rich, unique, and has a tremendous amount of potential to be a impacting literary period that people will continue to study even as time goes by. Postmodernism was the mark of a new age were true free expression was possible and as we moved into the 21st century it has continued to evolve into literature that is free of outside restrictions dropping the boundaries for authors allowing them to right about what they have on their mind or real issues and situations in our past and current world. This is the main reason why contemporary literature focuses so strongly on fiction. Simply because fiction is fiction it leaves a door open to infinite possibilities, and almost unimaginable stories that can move or reflect society and cause one to view the world not from the small aspect that it was shown in earlier eras, but rather from all angles and perspectives. Contemporary literature truly allows people to experience the full rich literary experience getting rid of the mind caging structure authors stuck to for so many years.
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