Puzzles and Paradoxes
In Ch. 4 I explained how and why our emotional responses are a way of understanding a novel (or other narrative) and how they can—and often should—serve as the basis of interpretations. To have one's emotions evoked as one reads a realistic novel is often not only desirable but also necessary to a proper understanding of the novel. But in laying out this view, I ignored a number of potential problems with it. In the present chapter I will address some of those potential problems. Readers who are not interested in the detail of the philosophical arguments, and who are already convinced of what I say, can skip this chapter if they wish.
I gladly acknowledge that many novels do not require intense emotional investment in the characters. I can read a 'stock' detective novel or Harlequin romance without getting emotionally worked up about the characters, simply because I understand it as just a characteristic member of a particular genre. There is no need for me to enter into the feelings of the detective or the country squire or the butler: they are just stock characters behaving in a stock way. On the other hand, even stock genres evoke some emotions, although they may be stock emotions. It would be an unsuccessful detective story that did not make us curious and suspenseful about what is going to happen, and a failure for a Harlequin romance to arouse no feelings of satisfaction when the heroine is rescued by the mysterious dark and handsome hero.