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Fact in Fiction and Fiction in Fact

The telling of a fictional story has as consideration for its success the sufficient and effective suspension of the reader’s disbelief. This necessitates the need to integrate general and realistic concepts into the text of the story. It is not necessary that the reader join the characters in their journey through the text but it is essential that they are able to withhold questioning the plausibility of the actual experiences of the characters. In order to better equip the reader to suspend disbelief particular accepted facts must be included in the manner that characters relate with each other or with their environment.

Alternatively, the presentation of a factual account or expository requires adequate manipulation in order that it might become appealing even to those not directly affected by the information being communicated. In expositions therefore there is an option for the writer to resort to hyperbolic illustrations or even to introduce fictional elements which average readers might be better equipped to relate to. In this manner, information is more effectively communicated to a greater number of people. The demarcation between these two methods of writing is becoming less distinct.

This paper will discuss three short stories to illustrate the blurring of distinctions between fact being integrated into fiction and fiction glamorizing particular sets of facts. By the end of this paper it will have been shown that the division of the two classes is not categorical in nature. The numerous elements at play in story-writing influence the acceptance of a story as pure fiction, pure fact, or a heterogeneous mixture of both. Beyond the reader’s acceptance of the story as any of these three species, there is also the added aspect of ascertaining writer’s intent.

The evolution of the craft of writing has broadened the scope of fictional narratives based on real-life accounts and that of factual representations hinging on fictional claims. There is thus a need to determine where, if any, the demarcation line lies. A Night at the Opera A Night at the Opera is the account of an inmate in Park House, a mental facility. The account of the nameless woman begins and ends with a comic film the same title as the story itself. Park House is shown as no ordinary mental facility. In fact, it is the residence of women who had brought harm to others or whose disposition predicated them capable of doing so.

Such disposition claimed them unable to belong with the outside world or the regular grind of society. Frame describes the people admitted therein: And the people who played and dined and spent the day there? They were the violent, the uncontrollably deluded and hallucinated, those who had murdered or would murder, the sadly deformed, the speechless. (Frame, 2008) The protagonist is no different. Her crime is not determined but it is shown that she has committed some atrocity and her medical condition is likewise referred to, “I was butcher-frocked and hallucinated, with my name on a list called Prefrontal Leukotomy (Frame, 2008).

” The residents of Park House live in despondent conditions with the general community constrained to fearing them and thus tolerant of their dejection. Constant experiments are conducted in attempts to improve their condition, but more probably for the posterity of the experimenter. The story builds up to a social experiment currently lauded by the Supervisor of the facility. It is a simple enough experiment consisting of the patient’s exposure to media portraying the general manner of social interaction. The nameless I in the story thus subjects herself to the hope and the joy of watching a comic film.

The film turns out to be the very same one alluded to at the beginning of the story wherein the protagonist seemed to still be in full possession of her mental facilities, i. e. before the tragedy that caused her confinement. The climax of the story is the successful playing of the movie when night finally sets in only to be interrupted by a sudden burst of light causing the pictures to become distorted and the laughter solicited unachieved. The story reflects the theme of robbed mirth. Madness it seems is the loss of laughter and the desolation in no longer knowing how to regain such joy.

Such is the plight of the character herein who is engulfed by misery, darkness and untold nighttime horrors. The story is clearly broadcast as fiction although it sticks to a realistic portrayal of events. Several allusions are made to general knowledge factual findings which might be reason to hold that this story is a clear illustration of fact in fiction. After all, there is a clear disclaimer of the genre of said story. However, the intrigue lies not in the narrative but on the seeming undertone that the language of the narration reverberates to the reader.

The use of realistic settings, characters ground the narrative in the real. However the figurative language and the kaleidoscope of metaphors introduce the air of surrealism intoning a message that is far closer to reality than fiction. This story is definitely a work of fiction as it is a creation of the author’s imagination with no basis on real characters or events. However, the depth at which the author plunges into the human condition and the plight of sorrow and the frustrated pursuit of happiness strikes closer to reality than even the straightforward plot, the flat characterizations, and the realistic settings.

The background of the story serves to place it in the realm of fictionalized facts. The manner of narration intimates that the story was not birthed out of a need to reflect the poor conditions that mental patients were subjected to in the past. Rather, it springs from the poor conditions that we ourselves are subject to each day in the pursuit of purpose, meaning, and joy. This is where the story derives its relevance and intrigue from, thus drawing the reader into the narration to share in the frustration of the I. The Reptile Garden This story revolves around Evelina, a young college student desirous of the poet’s life and dreams.

She is quite romantic and idealistic in her pursuits. She takes up French as her major because she wants to visit France and enters into a love affair with the poetry and biography of Anais Nin. This story is similar to A Night at the Opera in the regard that the plot also involves the manifestation of psychological problems. The first encounter with such a detachment from reality is when Evalina is slipped a hallucinogen by her cousin. This causes her to retreat into the solitude of her hallucinations for two whole days. After this experience with delusions, she applies as an attendant at a local psychiatric ward.

It is there that she meets Nonette, a patient in the ward to whom she is immediately attracted because of the latter’s French background. The story progresses to show that Nonette is similarly attracted to Evalina, although in a manner that Evalina had not quite conceived from their first encounter. A sexual relationship blossoms between the two and Evalina finds that she is capable of being attracted to another of the same sex as she is. When Nonette gets better Evalina sinks to depression and she herself is confined in the psychiatric ward. Her parents visit her but are unable to draw her out from her depression.

It is only when her cousin visits her that she realizes she may leave the facility and in fact, that she wants to. The story has no marked point of climax. In fact, there are at least two significant turning points in the story. The first is the encounter between Nonette and Evalina when Evalina finally submits to the knowledge that she also desires Nonette physically. The second turning point is Corwin’s, the cousin, visit when he fears that is the hallucinogen which he gave Evalina which caused her to be admitted in the ward. There is an internal change that occurs in the story.

Thus, although the circumstances seemed to have pointed towards several relevant points, there was only one point of change for the protagonist. Evalina began her narrative as a wide-eyed and isolated individual who looked towards the experience and expressions of others as a means of justifying her self. However, at the end of the story she comes to realize that she is unlike the others. She is unique in her own desires and wants. She finally finds peace when she realizes that the certainty of such knowledge is sufficient. There is no force compelling her to act on such desires unless and until she is ready to do so.

Such a change was shown in the transformation of Evalina’s sexuality. At the beginning of the story she admitted attraction towards her cousin, Corwin. However, along the way she finds her attraction toward Nonette is stronger. Although it is strange to society and in her mind she knows it to be so, in her inner being she is aware that it is what is natural to her. Thus, although Corwin offers himself to Evalina towards the end of the story she is able to deny him because she finds peace in herself and is able to finally accept who she really is.

The story though fictional, is quite clearly a realistic narration. Fictional experiences are presented in the narration but are justified and grounded on rational explanations. Even in the language used to set up the mood and environment there is no overuse of metaphor and hyperbole. However, the realistic perspective maintained throughout the story effectively draws the reader into the story alongside Evalina. This story exemplifies how factual considerations serve to drive a fictional narration closer to the readers’ known reality.

The Shelter of the World The psychological aberrations manifested by the protagonists of the two preceding stories may also be observed in the protagonist herein, Akbar. Akbar is a King who maintains a relationship with an imaginary woman, Jodha. Akbar’s love for Jodha is incredible and Jodha gains flesh as she is extolled by the poets and artists of the time. She gains respect and attention even over the real concubines of the King. The perspective of the story is maintained as the third person omniscient and maintains at first as an account of Akbar.

He is followed throughout the story except in the final scene wherein Jodha dominates. The voice is effective and the characterization complete. In fact, the story extends as Akbar’s self evolves through the varying experiences brought about. However, the culminating moment of change is rebuffed. Akbar has finally come to the point where he is willing to concede that he has a being separate from his position and more than his being a representative and embodiment of his people, he is an individual capable of desiring, possessing, and being possessed as all other individuals are.

The moment of climax arrives when he gets home from his war conquests and he enters the room where his imagined Jodha awaits for him. He tests out his recently acquired self-identity as represented through his reference of himself as “I” and no longer “we” as the embodiment of his people’s spirit. Contrary to his hopes however, Jodha fails to notice the significant change in pronoun. This causes Akbar to retreat back into his accustomed “we” and even Jodha is rejected from the intimacy that once was theirs. The story begins with a solid grounding in reality.

the protagonist’s journey and his experience are quite realistic and are based on factual considerations. However, a significant change occurs once Jodha, the imaginary wife, is introduced as a voice in the story. Given the strength of her control over the king, the question remains on the nature of her being: The question of her independent existence, of whether she had one, insisted on being asked, over and over, whether she willed it or not. If God turned his face away from his creation, Man, would Man simply cease to be? (Rushdie, 2008)

Thus fiction mixes with reality when she begins to speak and suddenly the reader is thrust into the question of whether or not this mystical being is some flesh and blood person that Akbar should be able to interact with her so. Conclusion The three stories point out that indeed the roles of fiction and fact as they relate to one another is complex. However, it is understood that each is a tool to be used in the furtherance of a narrative or an exposition. The main goal is to communicate intent to the reader. Where the writer fails to do so, then the tools have failed.

This is not to say that readers may only take from a text what the author has placed therein. Certainly not for the role of figurative speech cannot comprehend the use to which it may be put. However, in both the fact-ridden fiction piece and the fictional imagery encompassing true to life issues, there is a need to hold the reader’s attention and to bring said reader along on the journey from conflict to resolution. For if the reader has failed to even comprehend the nature of the conflict then the theme will have been lost in the telling.

Thus, what is determinative in the categorization of pieces as either fact-based or fiction-based is the nature and portrayal of the conflict, the observed intention of the author as well as the impression left on the reader. Controlling amongst these of course is the intention of the author. However, to determine such intent the other two factors must be given value.

References Erdrich, L. (2008, January 8). The Reptile Garden. Retrieved July 19, 2008 from, http://www. newyorker. com/fiction/features/2008/01/28/080128fi_fiction_erdrich/? currentPage=all. Frame, J. (2008, June 2).

A Night at the Opera House. Retrieved July 19, 2008, from http://www. newyorker. com/fiction/features/2008/06/02/080602fi_fiction_frame. Mellor, F. (2003). Between Fact and Fiction: Demarcating Science from Non-Science in Popular Physics Books. Social Studies of Science, 33(4), 509-538. Richardson, M. (1996). Blurring the Line between Fact and Fiction. American Anthropologist, 98(3), 623-624. Rushdie, S. (2008, February 25). The Shelter of the World. Retrieved July 19, 2008, from, http://www. newyorker. com/fiction/features/2008/02/25/080225fi_fiction_rushdie? currentPage=all.

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