In spite this fact, Barth goes against this piece of advice depicting that reality and fiction do not (cannot) compete, because they exist at the same time and place, and that the fictional world becomes a reality at the very moment it appears.
The short story will be analyzed through this lens paying particular attention to interdependency between fiction and reality, and impact of fiction (or its reality) on the message of the story. The research paper will discuss the status of a person in the short story through the analysis of his world perception and the role of fiction and reality in it. This story is better for this choice because it deals with physiological state of the person and his inner states.
The short story is based on Ambrose’s reflections who describes his life to himself. The most important is that Ambrose tells his story from "a mental distance" isolating himself from his real life experience. For instacne, he describes his love affair with Madga through self-reflection which only mirrors his inner state. Ambrose "wonders: will he become a regular person". At the same time "the plot doesn’t rise by meaningful steps but winds upon itself, digresses, retreats, hesitates, sighs, collapses, expires". He tried to construct the reality but failed. At the end of the story, Ambrose and the narrator is not able to find appropriate solution and get lost in a funhouse.
John Barth proves the fact that "good" fiction should not exist in competition with reality, because it is a reality in itself. For Ambrose, his reality is his fantasies, but as the most important its only his dreams. "He dreams of a funhouse vaster by far than any yet constructed. but by then they may be out of fashion" (Barth). Despite the apparent crudity of episodes, Barth’s story is animated by a quality more usually identified with a more self-consciously sophisticated form of fiction, in the characters of his narrator. From the very beginning, in contrast to traditions of fiction genre, Barth gives some hints to the reader that the story probably is "just make-believe": "A single straight underline is the manuscript mark for italic type, which in turn is the printed equivalent to oral emphasis of words and phrases as well as the customary type for titles of complete works, not to mention" (Barth). Contradictions like these – and there are many other celebrated examples in the short story – have often been taken as evidence of a slap-dash approach to the authorship. Yet the pattern of these contradictions, in which character preaches yet act like ruthless opportunists, goes to the heart of Barth’s fiction. For all its concentration on details, his short story is fantasy of survival, in which an individual psyche "unaided" confronts and conquers a host of adverse circumstances. "He [Ambrose] deceived himself into supposing he was a person. He even foresaw, wincing at his dreadful self-knowledge, that he would repeat the deception, at ever-rarer intervals, all his wretched life, so fearful were the alternatives" (Barth).
In contrast to Henry James point of view, Barth reminds his readers that the story is "just make-believe". Judgements like these derive from the tendency to identify Ambrose with the narrator of his reality and his self-absorption and alienation from this reality. It is important to note that Ambrose creates his reality which