In John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse," a character named Ambrose winds up lost in the confines of a funhouse, an attraction that is supposed to offer enjoyment by mixing the uncertain with adventure. However, this story is not told through conventional means, as the narrator of this tale is lost himself. The narrator, while focused on telling the tale of Ambrose, is also distracted by the various literary devices and techniques of putting a fictional work together. The narrator's observation of how the piece is being put together as the work unfolds, or of any type of device that makes the reader aware that he or she is indeed reading a form of fiction, is known as metafiction. John Barth's use of metafiction in "Lost in the Funhouse" stops the reader from fulfilling his or her role by reflecting on how the story is pieced together stylistically. That is, metafiction stops the reader from discovering the secrets of the work for themselves, as the inner workings are spilled out in plain text. By doing this, Barth also splits the narrator into two "selves." There is a story-centered voice, the self that wishes to convey the story (the self that still believes there is a story to tell), and there is a metafictional voice which explains exactly how the story is put together and by doing so dispels the notion that there is an original way in which to tell a story. These two voices are working against each other throughout "Lost in the Funhouse." However, Barth also mixes these sentiments together when Ambrose is lost in the funhouse, thereby reflecting the reader's frustration of trying to represent experience in the postrnodern era.
"Lost in the Postmodern Era,"
The Catalyst: Vol. 2
, Article 3.
Available at: http://aquila.usm.edu/southernmisscatalyst/vol2/iss1/3