The Meaning of Fiction

The Meaning of Fiction

The Meaning of Fiction

The Meaning of Fiction

Excerpt

Reality is what any work of literature tries to represent. The novel, as a narrative of events purportedly past, as a large descriptive and particularizing form, confronts reality more inclusively, more extensively, than lyric poetry and the drama. In reading a novel we come away with a tingling sense of reality come alive; we feel, whether at a deathly still two AM or amid the overtones of a sleepy afternoon, that the smallest facts of our lives are clear, and real, and connected. It is this emotion, this shudder of reality, which corresponds to the katharsis Aristotle states as the characteristic emotion of tragedy. In a tragedy we feel a purification of pity and terror created out of both pity and terror fused. At the end of a novel, closing the volume in the privacy of our selfhood, we feel a withness of the self to the world, a sense not only that the given detail is faithful to our experience, but that all the details compose into an elusive, rather secret, pattern of social reality.

The novelist of our tradition presents this reality in such a way that it is felt to underlie the appearances of social life. Manners, the appearances of social custom; behavior, the appearances of habitual action; attitudes, the expressed appearances of formed opinion--these bulk very . . .

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