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Clash of Cultures in Historical Fiction Pieces

Updated on January 20, 2018
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Historical fiction can be extremely interesting. In it, an author can explore many different scenarios. They can take something factual and use their imagination to come up with something even more interesting. It can get really exciting when cultures clash within the pages of an historical fiction piece. After all, that is what happens in real life.

Fiction does not always mean it cannot be reflective of real life. It can follow historical accounts but allows the writer to have creative liscence.


Defining Cultures

More than likely you are thinking of huge wars when we mention culture clashes. But it doesn’t have to be a major war to be a culture clash. Many occur on more minor stages but still can have a huge impact.

Cultures exist everywhere. Yes one country has one culture while another has an entirely different one. But don’t stop there. There are cultures within cultures. The United States is a culture. Yet within it are many, many cultures that appear foreign to each other. They have trouble functioning around each other. Even their language can be hard to understand. Over the years in the US, these cultures have clashed to be point of death.

They can be based on geography, religion, speech, or anything common among them. I guess you could argue that any time humans are involved there can be conflict. So it is not surprising that readers can find a clash of culture within the pages of historical fiction pieces.

Explaining is one thing. Seeing real examples are another. Here are a couple of historical fiction pieces that present a clash of cultures. If you haven’t read them yet, I highly suggest you do. They are great stories. Even the movies are well done.

North and South

One of the biggest culture clashes was the American Civil War. It was more than a series of battles. It was a divide that reached every area of American society.

John Jakes wrote a sage in The North and South series that has stayed popular down through the years. This story centers around a few families and the worlds they live in that are suddenly pulled apart. The cultures push and pull at each other with blood flowing and a few daring to challenge the conflict in order to bring peace to their family and love into their lives. This book will take you into the drama of the war and the people who lived it.

The Count of Monte Cristo

While this is generally considered a story of revenge, it is a story of love and different cultures. Alexander Dumas constructed a story that could span all of time and reach into the hearts of everyone.

From a young man low on the social ladder who ends up in a prison to being a rich count, the reader explores his journey through the different levels of society and the battles within his heart. It is the clash of these cultures within the French society that has him ending up in jail, condemned to die. There his anger festers while forgiveness works on his soul. The conflicts in this story are many and multi-faceted. A great story.

Ben-Hur

The Jews versus the Romans - you can get quite a bit of clash of cultures here. This cultural conflict is well known and is a popular classical Christian piece of literature.

Ben-Hur, by Lewis Wallace, is the story of a young Jewish man who finds himself arrested and sent to his death as a slave. Fate steps in and due to his heroic acts at sea is adopted by a Roman politician. The adoption makes him a Roman and gives him protection he would never have as well as wealth beyond his imagination. He struggles with the new culture as he looks for his family and faces the world as a Jew while being a Roman. Add the fact that the reason he is in prison is his former best friend, a Roman soldier. Now he has to face his own inner demons when he is confronted by the one who betrayed him and his family.

To Kill a Mockingbird

In the Deep South long after the Civil War has ended, the clash of cultures between white and black is still going strong. Harper Lee dives into a tense story where black versus white and white versus white is strong.

The clash of cultures is brought into the spotlight in this moving story of a young girl whose white father is called to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. In the community’s eyes, he is guilty because of his skin color. Yet his lawyer tries to show the community that one has to look beyond the culture of a person and at the truth of the incident. The entire event brings out the good and the bad in the citizens of this small town.

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