Friday, February 6, 2009

the dedication

"This book is lovingly dedicated to the men of Alpha Company, and in particular to Jimmy Cross, Norman Bowker, Rat Kiley, Michell Sanders, Henry Dobbins, and Kiowa."

Ok, so this is basically the very first page of the book after the copyright page. It's the first page of the book you read, and in that fact, you might read the dedication and think "Oh, that's nice. He's dedicating this book to his war buddies he knew during Vietnam."

But the names in the dedication are actually the main characters in his book! His book that is confusing enough with fact and fiction crossing, or is it just fiction? In the course of the book he makes you believe it both ways. Tells you it's true. Tells you it is all made up, but it could have been true. Tells you parts of it are true. He puts into the book autobiographical facts about his life that you can check for yourself are true, but then he surrounds those facts with this novel, these lies.

So maybe the dedication is to real people with those real names he elaborated stories about to create this book.

Maybe he wrote these characters around people he really knew in the war, and the dedication is a pseudonomic way to dedicate the book to the real people that inspired the characters.

But then, if you are a really careful reader, the copyright page, which is opposite from the dedication page, says, "This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author's own life, all the incidents, names, and characters are imaginary."

Which is like letting all the air out of my balloon. I don't want to believe it.

But it's true, apparently, if it's in the copyright page. Even the title page doesn't say "a novel." No, it goes as far as to make very clear this is "a work of fiction."

It's like the periferies of the book want to make it perfectly clear that everything you are about to read is NOT true, but then the book goes to great lengths to make you feel that it is true. There are chapters dedicated to the author's/narrator's quest to make stories true, or feel as if they are true.

So what about this dedication?

Is it just a clever ploy to further elaborate on the truth/untruth of the story?

Is it his way of dedicating the book to all soldiers of the Vietnam War - excuse me, Conflict?

What do you think?


  1. "This book is lovingly dedicated to the men of Alpha Company, and in particular to Jimmy Cross, Norman Bowker, Rat Kiley, Michell Sanders, Henry Dobbins, and Kiowa."

    I noticed the same things, and I think that maybe because it's a war story and could have some true parts, as there are things that could be relatable, he does this to go out to the companies, and the soldiers. Maybe one could identify with a particular soldier. As I have no war experience myself I don't know, but yes in my opinion it could be a way to dedicate the book to all soldiers of the Vietnam war.

  2. I think also this is what good writers do. Give us a piece of non fiction or fiction and then lovelingly coax the reader into believing that it could/could not be real. They use true human emotion and also what could be real life situations. That's how they "hook" us, they appeal to our own experiences and humanity.

  3. Haha. Emily I had to laugh at your post because it sounded like you were getting really upset. I think part of the book I like the most is that you don't know what's real and what's fake. I like that O'brien plays games with stories. But isn't that what stories are all about anyway? We're always elaborating the truth, telling it in different ways to different people, omitting and adding for the sake of the story! I like the naturalness of it, and that he's honest about possibly telling some lies...

  4. Metafiction my dear Watson.


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