In what ways can we look at fiction as history?Give suitable examples.examples should be from some of the novels like 'GREAT EXPECTION', 'MIDDLE MARCH', 'WUTHERING HEIGHTS', 'A PASSAGE TO INDIA' ....

In what ways can we look at fiction as history?Give suitable examples.

examples should be from some of the novels like 'GREAT EXPECTION', 'MIDDLE MARCH', 'WUTHERING HEIGHTS', 'A PASSAGE TO INDIA' . I need an essay of 8 pages.

Asked on by izaan373

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jmj616's profile pic

jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Let me play the devil's advocate. Fiction is not meant to be truth. The representation of history, then, in fiction, is going to be twisted or skewed to meet the author need. Writers of fiction will probably be as historically accurate as the need to be. This is necessary for the audience suspension of disbelief. However, just like movies based on true events, fiction would be the same sort of situation.

With devils like you, who needs angels?

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Let me play the devil's advocate. Fiction is not meant to be truth. The representation of history, then, in fiction, is going to be twisted or skewed to meet the author need. Writers of fiction will probably be as historically accurate as the need to be. This is necessary for the audience suspension of disbelief. However, just like movies based on true events, fiction would be the same sort of situation.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Stephen King said, "Fiction is the truth behind the lie."  This statement underscores what the previous post mentions that fiction records the culture of a certain time and place.  In fact, fiction is a more accurate recording of history than than history is itself since it records the workings  of human hearts.  For instance, Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, while giving some insight into the occupations of ambulance drivers in World War I, clearly provides insight into the heart of the disillusioned soldier of that time.  For a European example, All Quiet on the Western Front  by Erich Maria Remarque certainly records the desperation and dehumanization of the World War I soldier fighting in the trenches.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think Post 2 is a great answer, but it leaves out (or doesn't explicitly state) one thing that I think is important.  Fiction is also history because it can tell us about what people of a certain time and place thought and what they valued.

For example, Uncle Tom's Cabin shows us what sort of issues were foremost in the minds of anti-slavery advocates in the 1850s.  We know this because we know that the book was extremely popular, which implies that people agreed with the messages in the book.

As another example, the success of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair shows us that people in the early 1900s were concerned about the working conditions in American factories and by the impact those conditions had on workers and customers.

When a book presents a certain argument (anti-slavery, anti-exploitation of workers) and it becomes very popular, we know that at least some large portion of the society at the time it was written agrees with that argument.

jmj616's profile pic

jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

I can see two main ways in which fiction can be considered history.

The first way is that we can learn about life in a particular place and time by studying the fiction that was written at that time.  For example, Great Expectations gives us a glimpse of life in London in the early 19th century; Wuthering Heights gives us a picture of life in the English countryside at approximately the same time.  By reading these books, we can learn about many aspects of life in these eras: technology, manners, language, food, religion, etc.

The second way that fiction can be used as history is by considering books published as historical events.  Just as wars and treaties and elections are historical events, so are the writing and publishing of books.  In 1860, the U.S. Civil War began, and Great Expectations was published.  Both of these events can tell us something about life in 1860.   

In both cases, you must be careful about the "historical" conclusions that you draw from literature.  Authors of fiction are writing stories, not histories.  Just because Emily Bronte describes a character like Heathcliff does not prove that such people were common, or existed at all, in her time.  And just because Dickens published Great Expectations in 1860 does not prove that the opinions expressed in that novel were commonly held at that time.  Fiction is a great source for history, but it must be checked against other sources.

udonbutterfly's profile pic

udonbutterfly | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Some great books that come to mind that you can see history playing out through would be...

The Old Man and the Sea depicted the rough times it was to be a fisherman in 1950's Cuba. Fishing was becoming  more and more difficult as the population of fish dwindled due to over fishing by the misuse of fishing gear  and regulation . You can see in this document here that goes into detail about Cuba's fishing industry here. or in the reference link it's on page 14.

In Wuthering Heights you get a taste of what country life is at the beginning of the Victorian Age. You get Joseph who is the devote religious follower and Catherine who puts societal values such as wealth over love.

Of Mice and Men is a great illustration of how many people turned out to be hobo's and hopeless, hoping from job to job during the  depression era.

Sources:

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