Running in the Family

by Michael Ondaatje

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What literary techniques does Michael Ondaatje use in Running in the Family and why?

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One of the literary techniques employed by Michael Ondaatje in Running in the Family is that of mixing fact and fiction, which is used to highlight the incomplete nature of his family's history.

The core of Ondaatje's story is undoubtedly true, but due to the large gaps in his family's history, he often resorts to fictional elements to plug them up. This gives us a story in which fiction and nonfiction elements coincide, a common feature of postmodern writing.

Another postmodern feature of Running in the Family is the unreliability of the narrator. As a narrator, Ondaatje conspires in his own authorial death by openly pointing out the numerous inconsistencies in the narrative. Though mainly dealing with real people and real-life situations, Ondaatje shows an awareness of the difficulties involved in pinning down a precise, uncontroversial meaning to which everyone can subscribe.

That being the case, he mixes fact and fiction in true postmodern fashion and lets the reader construct their own meaning from what is presented in the text.

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