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Genre of Fiction, Term Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1159

Term Paper

Fiction, by its very definition, evokes themes of illusion. Namely, as a genre, fiction is a form of narrative that opposes by what we understand as reality. However, this simple definition of fiction is transformed by authors from diverse historical periods, such as Moliere, Sophocles, Carver and O’Brien. Namely, these authors utilize fiction in a startling way, so as to demonstrate a fictional element within fiction itself: that is, all four authors, in their respective works, “Love is the Doctor”, “Oedipus Rex”, “Neighbors”, and “The Things we Carried”, present narratives in which the main characters themselves undergo experience the relationship of reality and illusion. That is, all characters are led by illusions concerning their life, illusions which mask the reality of their own existence. In this sense, all four authors challenge the boundaries of reality and fiction, insofar as they question within fiction itself what is real and what is not, a gesture that leads the reflective reader to contemplate, after reading these works, what is real and what is not in their own individual lives. Nevertheless, at the same time, it can be considered that all these authors approach the phenomenon of the relation of reality and illusion in different ways, ranging from fully tragic life-negating experiences, such as in the case of Sophocles, to how the realization of the illusion provokes a moment of profound self-reflection. However, the common thread of these four authors and the four aforementioned works is precisely this theme of illusion and how it itself can be stronger than what we consider to be “real”; nevertheless, the authors differ in what the ultimate consequence of this realization is.

In Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”, the theme of illusion is explicit, insofar as the main character Oedipus is led to believe that he is someone who in reality he is not. The narrative of Oedipus is defined by a prophecy, which will anticipate the tragic outcomes of the character. Namely, Laius the king is told by an oracle that he will be killed by his own son. Taking preventative measures, Laius seeks to dispose of his son, Oedipus. Nevertheless, Laius is eventually killed by Oedipus, who marries his own biological mother, Laius’ wife, Queen Jacosta, which is also anticipated by the prophecy. The element of illusion in Sophocles’ work thus revolves around the attempt to thwart the communications of fate provided by the oracles: the illusion exists in that Laius believes that sufficient action has been taken so as to avert this prophecy. Insofar as this prophecy was not averted, as evidenced by Laius’ murder at the hands of Oedipus, and the latter’s marriage to his own mother, Jacosta, the belief that the prophecy was in fact averted marks the illusion that constituted the main character’s reality. Hence, reality itself, as it is understood by the main characters, is undermined by Sophocles, as he shows the phantasmal element of reality, to the extent that all characters live under an illusion. There is thus a fundamental conflation between illusion and reality that is present in Sophocles’ text, as the characters are unable to distinguish between the two: As Oedipus himself states, the result of this is that one may discover that “all my life is found one great mistake.” (Sophocles, 35) In short, one’s entire reality may be based on a lie: the effects of the realization of this lie are tragedy.

Moliere, in his “Love is the Doctor”, approaches this same thematic, although in a more humorous manner. The complicated relationship between Lucinde and Sganarelle drives the plot’s narrative, as Sganarelle loves Lucinde, but is nevertheless unwilling to marry her, because his thought is that Lucinde will eventually be with someone else and this is too much for him to bear. This sets in motion Lucinde’s scheme to fake her illness, so as to make Sganerelle remark his lover for her. This plot, however, ultimately leads to Sganerelle’s marriage to Lucinde: he signs a document of marriage with Lucinde, believing that it will cure her illness, while it really binds them as husband and wife. In this case, what is conceived as an illusion ultimately become reality in the form of the betrothal of two lovers: illusion itself becomes real. As the character Clitandre declares: “the mind has a great empire over the body.” (Moliere, 19) However, what makes Moliere’s interpretation of the relation between illusion and reality different from, for example, that of Sophocles, is that this indistinction between the two can ultimately have positive effects.

Carver’s Neighbors plays with this theme in another manner. While house-sitting for the Stones, who have gone away on vacation, the Miller couple is able to realize their fantasies, insofar as they have always envied the Stones. The Millers thus enact their imaginary subjectivities in the Stones’ apartment, for example, dressing in the Stones’ clothes. Yet the twist Carver provides to this narrative is at the end of the narrative, when the Millers are locked out of the Stones’ apartment. In this moment there is a profound realization that the world of the Stones is not their world: they are prohibited from it, it is no their reality. With this recognition they understand that their admiration for the Stones was itself merely an illusion. In this way, as opposed to Sophocles and Moliere, Carver shows how that illusion can lead to the self-discovery of one’s own reality: illusion is merely a path to the real.

O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” provides yet another variant of the illusion-reality motif. Set in the Viet Nam war, the soldiers experience the false veneers of war: motivated to fight by an ideology, the tragic experiences of those involved uncovers a reality that is more profound than the ideological conflict between “communism” and “democracy”: what is revealed underneath this illusion is the reality of a common humanity. As O’Brien starkly declares, although in a scene depicting the violence of war and soldiers imagining what may happen to them: “Imagination was a killer.” (10) However, this phrase perhaps has a deeper symbolic meaning: imagination was precisely the illusion of the reasons why they were fighting. It was these illusory ideological causes that ultimately led to death on the battlefield.

Accordingly, all four authors play with the fundamental fictional motif of the entanglement between illusion and reality. However, they differ in how they treat this theme. Authors such as O’Brien and Carver emphasize the strict separation between illusion and reality, demonstrating that there is an underlying real which is more important than illusion. Sophocles and Moliere, in contrast, suggest the fundamental inseparability of illusion and reality, insofar as illusion can be more real than reality itself. In this manner, illusion and reality are inseparable: the authors differ however, in what the consequences of this inseparability mean.

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. “Neighbors.” New York, NY: Harvill, 1995.

Moliere. “Love is the Doctor.” New York, NY: BiblioBazaar, 2011.

O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” New York, NY: Milner, 2009.

Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” Asheville, NC: Forgotten Books, 2011.

 

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