Lost in the Funhouse

by John Barth

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Why and how does John Barth use parody in Lost in the Funhouse?

John Barth uses parody in Lost in the Funhouse to make fun of writers who think of books as only for reading. He achieves this by encouraging the reader to cut out parts, to record the "items," and to put on live performances. Look into the more conventional stories and see how Barth pokes fun at famous writers and classic narrative devices as a means of making Lost in the Funhouse a parody of books themselves.

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John Barth might be using parody in Lost in the Funhouse for an innumerable number of reasons. Let's try and think through some of them.

Remember, parody typically means to make fun or imitate a genre, a person, and so on.

So what is John Barth making fun of? We might say he's making fun of writers who view books as objects that can only be read. By parodying the idea that books can serve one limited purpose, he demonstrates that books can be so much more. He shows us you can cut parts out of books, read books out loud, record what you're reading, and even put on a live reenactment. Again, we might say Barth uses parody to show us how books can lend themselves to multiple mediums.

Barth might also be using parody to make fun of other famous writers. In "Night-Sea Journey," the sperm writes, "I have seen the best swimmers in my generation go under." What does this line remind you of? If you've read Allen Ginsberg's famous poem Howl, then you might know that it starts off with, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness."

Perhaps Barth is using parody to help us think of other writers. Maybe he's parodying them to show us that, even if these other writers have had a serious cultural impact, it's still ok to make fun of them: it's not like they're gods.

One last thing: you might want to look at "Petition" and see how the brother's letter pokes fun at the use of letters in novels. Think about some of the classic novels you've read. Is there not typically a part where the author includes a letter from one character to another? You might want to think about how Barth calls attention to how contrived and tedious those letters can sometimes be.

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