The power of literary fiction

Fiction can help us escape into our own fantasies and also ensures an interaction with those realities we overlook

Ahsan Daud July 27, 2022

“But wishes are only granted in fairy tales.”

Simone Elkeles in Perfect chemistry comes up with this perfectly brewed notion, which decidedly can be felt but is unfortunately restricted to what we call ‘fiction’ – that distinctive world we all would’ve imagined back in our childhood. A world populated by the talking crockery in Beauty and the Beast, the wizarding world of Harry Potter, or any of the sublime imaginative creations which exist either in the form of a book or movie. Fiction always plays a vital role in filling one’s mental capacity with diverse characters, subjects and their essence.

The alchemisation of our thought process is a direct consequence of fiction, so we may label it as something which has majestic transformative powers. How? The answer lies within its very structure, the base upon which it stands firm. Let us begin with characters and their characteristics as stated before.

Though it might seem like a piece of cake to construct characters in a story, for a writer, building strong characters is far more pivotal than the story itself. Their demeanour and the treatment of their abilities requires massive constructive work and contemplation so that they may be able to create empathy among readers. Here lies the crux. This is why I have been stressing over characters being the overriding component of fiction.

When a reader develops cognitive empathy, it makes them able to sneak through lives of fictional figures with astonishingly realistic feelings, allowing a personality refinement of ourselves. This is the very theory nowadays being emphasised by mainstream psychologists to understand the virtues of fiction. I must say, at this point, story acts in quite familiar way in terms of its influence upon us. Writers are one of us, influenced by varying ideologies, cultures and the atmosphere of this world. One would definitely pen down what one sees and scrutinise it.

With different minds having different thought processes, different lives, different perspectives and, above all, distinctive philosophies, this allows them to fill fiction with a fantasy of their own. As a result, we witness angles of reality from their eyes and juxtapose their conclusions with our life philosophy, making us able to identify flaws in a way which makes us constructively criticise ourselves rather than heeding to the scathing remarks people around us propagate.

Fictional worlds have a way of showing situations which may seem different from our world. However, their true essence remains in the social philosophy and rudimentary ethics present in this world. Breaking it down to a simpler definition, fiction, especially the fantasy genre, depicts right and wrong in a quite pleasing way. When curiosity is ignited, people start to think and relate those lessons with real life. For example, the Harry Potter series still shows such basic fundamentals of human life when holistically analysed. Putting aside its fictional elements, a person with such an odd life, without his parents, attaining fame, battling insecurities, but still managing to get through every problem because he is resilient, consistent and brave. Harry has not at all been represented as a protagonist without any flaws or failures. Instead, he has some extremely extraordinary but pragmatic qualities to ensure his success despite his vulnerabilities.

How this representation impacts our mentality is not hard to determine. Living in a world full of problems and failures, this type of escapism containing such life lessons could easily benfit us. Another distinction which has been represented in fiction is the difference between right and wrong. A story specifically wrought out to show the victory of truth is a real treat, making us believe that truth always triumphs.

Jane Austen delineating the power of love in each of her fictional works, or Fyodor Dostoyevsky propagating the dilemma of right and wrong in his distinctive literary works would have a certain impact on our mind. Thus, fiction successfully works as a remedy to our mind, encompassing our thoughts, and giving us a sense of relief and refinement. From children to adults, all of us can experience this if we indulge ourselves in these worlds. Fiction can not only help us escape into our own fantasies but also ensures an interaction with those realities of life we often overlook due to fear and doubt.

Ahsan Daud

The writer is an A-level student at Lahore Grammer School (Lahore).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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