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Flexibility in Fiction

Updated on April 27, 2016

Fiction is often referred to as “lies.” However, lies are usually considered negative and false, while fiction is full of meaning and value. Fiction does not contain lies, instead it contains truths that can not be found in our reality. One must learn to expand their knowledge and accept the lack of disciplines in Fiction. One must pay attention to the supplementary events in a plot rather than stress over the fantasy or description in order to receive the benefits of fiction. Fiction creates flexibility allowing for freedom of interpretation.

Fiction is known for its incredible imagery, and power to take a reader into a realm that is unheard of in the real world. In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the reader enters a forest full of killer werewolves, deadly wasps, and a lack of food and water. Readers often get so captivated through the imagery they forget to pay attention to the narrator and find themselves cheated by the end of novel. The most important part of understanding fiction, in my opinion, is the understanding of the narrator’s reliability. The narrator determines the interpretation of the story.

The Hunger Games by Suzan Collins is portrays Katniss as one of the most powerful female fictional heroins of the millenium
The Hunger Games by Suzan Collins is portrays Katniss as one of the most powerful female fictional heroins of the millenium

In the holy tale of The Sacrifice of Isaac many different versions have been produced, yet they tell different interpretations. In sum, the story describes Abraham taking his son, Isaac up to mount Moriah, with the intention of sacrificing him. Whom is behind the sacrifice creates meaning in the story. The version from Genesis 22 has Abraham as the antagonist who sacrifices his son. In Odysseus's Scar, it is through God's command that Abraham is forced to sacrifice Isaac, “Abraham, receiving the command, says nothing and does what he has been told to do (Kierkegaard, 47).” Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard's contains multiple versions of this biblical story; in the first, it is God who commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham tells Isaac “it is my desire (Kierkegaard, 8)” so he does not lose faith in God. In the second tale Abraham almost kills Isaac, but sacrifices a ram instead. Even though Isaac was saved, Abraham was damaged from almost killing his son “from that day on Abraham became old, he could not forget that God had demanded this of him (Kierkegaard, 9).” In the third version Abraham has sinned and is willing to sacrifice Isaac “the father had forgotten his duty to his son (Kierkegaard, 10). The final version has Isaac seeing Abraham clenching the knife, there is a gap, and the reader is left with the impression that “Isaac had lost faith (Kierkegaard, 10).” It is unclear whether Isaac loses faith in his father or in God, leaving the interpretation up to the reader. By acknowledging how supplementary events can be interpreted differently depending on the narration, the value of the story changes. These stories contrast the value between father and son, and faith in God versus faith in Abraham.

The binding of Isaac
The binding of Isaac

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara, both have young girls narrating their stories. Their lack of experience causes them to have a one sided impression and not understand other's reasoning and actions making them unreliable narrators. In the Lesson our protagonist finds it silly when a woman explains the importance of education. “Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lady moved on our block with napy hair and proper speech and no makeup (Bambara, 1),” our protagonist is obviously unreliable because of her age, speech, judgments, and considering, the fact that she finds education useless and lacks knowledge. How reliable a narrator is important when knowing whether to trust them, and in understanding the outcome.

In The Hunger Games, our protagonist Katniss attempts to read other character's intentions in the epic battle to compete for endless food and glory. The competitors each have different characteristics that make them a good fighter. The entire story has the reader captivated on who will be the winner. Will it be Katniss the strong female lead, who can climb trees and is equipped with bows and arrows? Or could it be her nemesis Foxface who has managed to be her strongest competitor? Perhaps, Peeta her “lover boy (Collins, 156)” was faking his sickness or love for Katniss the whole time, and will rise at the end of the novel. From the reader's perspective Peeta's actions reveal that he has feelings for Katniss, this is best scene when he warns her that Cato is after her. Saving someone in a competition gives reason for Peeta's obvious feelings toward Katniss, however, for a young girl this can be hard to grasp. Collins uses direct thought to depict Katniss's contemplative emotions over whether Peeta likes her or whether he is just using her to win the games. Katniss's emotions give her unreliability when it comes to other character's motives.

The beauty of fiction is rules can change. At one point in The Hunger Games the producers state “under the new rule, both tributes from the same district will be declared winners if they are the last two live (Collins, 244),” later the producers take this statement back which is completely unfair. By the end of the novel the truth is revealed. Katniss and Peeta pretend to eat poisinous berries, and they both win the Hunger Games! However, how can this be when the rules state there is only one winner? Fiction is flexible, accepting change. This is the reason one must forget the disciplines. A non-fictional reader may have felt cheated. They may have been focusing on each character's characteristics weighing out who was the strongest competitor. That's part of fiction, it gets one thinking and guessing, and creates surprise. By understanding that Katniss was an unreliable narrator it should be accepted that there were two winners. While Katniss is reliable in the events she explains, her emotions create an unreliable narrative.

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes

In the Sherlock Holmes series we can trust our narrator, Watson to tell the story in progress. Watson works under Sherlock Holmes and uses focalization to report Holmes client's descriptive features and alibis. Watson stands at a short distance, and occasionally puts his input on the case but never places his personal judgments or let's emotions get in the way of the other characters. Instead, Watson observes their actions from a short distance and patiently listens. In A Case of Mistaken Identity by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Watson reports a young women stressing “why, all the morning he was saying to me that, whatever happened, I was to be true (Doyle, 6),” through direct dialogue Watson creates Mrs. Mary Sutherland as a vulnerable character. “Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details (Doyle, 8)” Holmes explains to Watson, teaching him detective thinking. Watson can give us a neutral perspective of the case through direct dialogue. This allows Watson to experience the story unfolding while letting the reader assume roles to each character.

Fiction allows reading to have flexibility. As seen in the Sacrifice of Isaac supplementary events can be interpreted in a variety ways. One can be in the position of Katniss a young girl in an epic battle to death. Or one can be like the girl in the Lesson, so young, so innocent, so much to learn. Furthermore, one can sit next to Sherlock Holmes and experience stressed out clients and help solve mysteries. Fiction allows one to enter a diegetic world and find truths, as well as understand who to trust which makes these readings to personal. One is never told what to think, ideas and characteristics are often implied or left up to the reader fir interpretation. Fiction has the power of jogging the imagination and allowing individuals to find personal meaning through its literature.

Who is your favorite modern fiction hero or heroin?

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