Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Illumination of Fiction

Fiction is a wonderful art. It allows people to analyze life in a way that is metaphorical, as opposed to approaching life with a serious, rationalistic demeanor. It does not, as much philosophy does, force anyone to think seriously as one would when they attempt to discover some scientific axiom. There is an ambiguity to fiction that is clearly noticeable and commendable. Philosophers, trying to understand reality with the best descriptions, scoff at ambiguous terminology when working in the seriousness of academic circles. This is the beauty of fiction; it frees you from reality, momentarily, and forces you to interpret the story subjectively, making the story relevant from your own perspective. Good fiction is artful ambiguity. 

I recently read some fiction books, freeing my mind from all of the diligent undertakings of a philosophy undergraduate student. It was a breath of fresh air. One of the books I read was The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. The book was interesting and thought provoking, even though the resolution of the story was completely foreseeable (as hinted at by its title). But the literary motifs in the story are very interesting. Probably the most distinguishable motif in the story was one that involved memory. The main character, Tony Webster, is often depicted in many asides telling us that memory often disregards past facts in order to satisfy our subjective emotions of the present. This is an interesting concept. It seems that every person could possibly think of a time where their memory has escaped them, and caused a lapse due to the distress of that particular situation. The lapse seems to pacify our minds; catharsis results.

The other book was a horror thriller by Charles Maclean, entitled The Watcher. I found this story surprisingly illuminating in an interesting way. The narrator, Martin Gregory, is a computer programmer who, out of nowhere, commits a very disturbing act (he kills his two golden retrievers and gives them to his wife as a birthday gift). From the very outset of this grotesque outburst, Martin is clearly mentally distressed. Throughout the story, he begins to make connections with fables of the past and concludes that he is the reincarnation of the protagonist of these myths. His unhealthy mental state caused me to think about how we, as humans, are guilty of making connections that are sometimes irrelevant or coincidental. Of course, most of us don't go to such extremes as the narrator. Nevertheless, some African tribes think that certain lesions to the skin is a sure sign of witchcraft.

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