Thursday, March 21, 2019

Taking Fiction Seriously

I asked my husband, a retired English teacher, for a subject for today's post, and he complained that people today, generally, read a lot of non-fiction, but don't take fiction seriously.

Fiction, he said, can offer a distilled truth that non-fiction can't.

I find that insightful and possibly the highest strength of good fiction.

He mentioned, in particular, Dickens writing about the plight of the poor in Victorian England. The facts were available, but Dickens took his readers into the lives of the poor. When we read about Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, or even Fagin, we experience their suffering; we see the prejudices and systemic abuses from their sides.

We can read histories of times and places and know the facts, but a rich fiction can put us there inside a participant.

As he also pointed out, fiction can also harden stereotypes and perpetuate mythologies, but I maintain that only poor fiction does that. Good fiction doesn't deal in stereotypes, but in individuals, who do things that may look stereotypical for true, personal reasons; if they don't, it isn't good fiction.

What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
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