The story “The Night the Ghost Got In” is a humorous account of the author’s childhood in Columbus, Ohio. The story, though it may seem fictitious, is largely autobiographical. It falls under the category of writing called “autobiographical fiction".
So, before we talk about the genre, let us try to understand what an autobiography is?
An autobiography is an account of a person's life written by that person. Autobiographical works can take many forms, from the intimate writings made during life that were not necessarily intended for publication (including letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, and reminiscences) to a formal book-length autobiography.
Formal autobiographies offer a special kind of biographical truth. It is primarily about the author’s life. However, since they are often recollected and presented, some of the facts or experiences in the writer’s life are consciously or unconsciously omitted or misrepresented.
What is autobiographical fiction?
Autobiographical fiction, or autofiction, is a different genre that “combines two mutually inconsistent narrative forms, namely autobiography and fiction”.
The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the provision of being fiction. Because an autobiographical novel is partially fiction, the author does not ask the reader to expect the text to present the complete truth. Names and locations are often changed, and events are recreated to make them more dramatic. However, what is essential is that the story still bears a close resemblance to the author's life. While the author's life events are recounted, there is no pretence of exact truth. Events may be exaggerated or altered for artistic or thematic purposes.
"The Night the Ghost Got In" as an autofiction
The characters in the story are principally drawn from the author’s life. The author’s immediate family comprises five members: his father, mother, elder brother (William), younger brother (Robert), and the author himself. The narrator’s family is also constructed similarly. Apart from a mother and a father, the narrator has an elder brother named Herman and a younger brother named Roy. As you can see, the names of the brothers have been changed.
Also, the mother is presented as frantic, paranoid, humorously crazy. However, Thurber’s mother doesn’t fit into the description. He has often described his mother as a "born comedian" and believes that she was one of the finest comic talents he had ever known. She is also an inspiration to him, for her humour and theatrics influenced many of Thurber's stories and characters. He calls her a practical joker, and, on one occasion, she pretended to be crippled and attended a faith healer revival, only to jump up and proclaim herself healed.
The story is set in Thurber’s childhood home in Columbus. Thurber and his family lived in the home from \(1913\) to \(1917\), while young Thurber was a student at The Ohio State University. The narrator's house is the same as Thurber's one. It is located at 77Jefferson Avenue, Columbus, OH 43215. In \(1984\), the place was converted to a nonprofit literary arts centre, Thurber museum, historic landmark, and gathering place for readers, writers, and artists, known as Thurber House,.
The story recounts an incident where the narrator mistook his grandfather for a ghost. This led to a series of misunderstands and chaotic situations.
In the story, we learn that the ghost was a result of a misunderstanding. However, Thurber believed otherwise. He believed to his dying day that his childhood home was haunted. He only changed the plot not to scare the residents of the house.