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In what way can we look at fiction as history? Give suitable examples.(Explain in 600...

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jenajaya | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM via web

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In what way can we look at fiction as history?

Give suitable examples.(Explain in 600 words)

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prishi12 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:15 PM (Answer #1)

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In fiction burden of proof is less important in fiction. Rather, the emphasis is on the use of the author’s imagination and writing style to depict their own version of event or character. History on the other hand, is a continuous, systematic account of events relating to people, country, period etc and is usually written in chronological order.

History as we see is a long continuous process without a clear tangible beginning as well as an end. It goes on unfolding itself beyond its specific actors of a period, its men and women who are active within it to influence and change it. On the other hand, a work of fiction begins at a particular point of life in society and ends at another point.

However, shaping of a piece of fiction - like a poem, a play, a drama or a novel; takes certain amount of truth from the existing circumstances of the author. These circumstances may include social issues, cultural and religious beliefs, economic trends etc of the time that the author has lived in.

Novel - Over the Centuries

English novel came into existence in the beginning of 18th centurywith the emergence of new middle class. Novelists showed interest in the newly emerged complex middle-class characters who were struggling with their morality and social issues.

The first half of the 19th century was influenced by romanticism and the focus was on nature and imagination. Gothic (horror) and romantic novels were written during this time. Jane Austen wrote highly polished novels about the life of the landed gentry and social issues like marriage and property from women’s perspective.

In the period between 1837 to 1901, the Victorian novelists became popular. They portrayed middle-class, virtuous heroes responding to harsh society. Stories of working class poor people were directed to incite sympathy. Charles Dickens emerged as a literary figure and wrote about London life and struggles of the poor in Oliver Twist.

In the early twentieth century, Rudyard Kipling wrote highly versatile novels, short stories and poems, often based on his experience in British India. E.M.Forster also wrote A Passage to India which reflected challenges to imperialism. Novels from this era reflected great world events such as The Great Depression, World War II, Hiroshima, The Cold War and Communism. Crime, political and military confrontations were the areas of novelists and readers interest.

By looking at the history or genesis of novel in England above, we realise that author’s of different eras have provided the readers with a glimpse, if not a complete picture of a society, economic trends, cultural and religious beliefs of the time they wrote in. They covered varied subjects in their work starting from romances to naturalism, marriage and property, middle-class and landed gentry and so on.

Over the centuries, novel or fiction presented the readers with a telescope to peer back into the world history - their own and other’s culture. It is true that fiction is the work of author’s imagination and the characters and situations are all ‘made-up’, however, they tend to take up certain amount of truth from their social surroundings. 

Fiction has gradually started resembling history and history has become an all-important subject of fiction. Since, author’s work is not entirely based on imagination and takes up events, characters and issues from the real world, we can safely conclude that history is a significant part of fiction.

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