Is fiction an escapism ?

While glancing through the newspaper’s editorial, I chanced upon this rather interesting piece by Jug Suraiya.The fiction readers are alleged to be escapists from reality and the author defends this on how ‘escaping’ can be considered more in terms of escaping from one’s own consciousness to the consciousness of others.

Being an avid reader of fiction for a long time, it came as something akin to a surprise and I did ponder on whether it was escapist. Fiction in the form of storytelling and folk lore has existed since time immemorial. Who hasn’t listened to grandma’s stories with its abundance of moral lessons?

Fiction could be of the speculative fiction variety like The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter where the reader is transported to the narrative’s imaginative world. As many ardent readers would vouch for, is that it requires a childlike ability to be able to live in the unreal, to be able to cast aside the shackles bound by reality and for those brief moments of time to be able to don the garb of a child again. The ability to create a pseudo-world where the rules are only limited to what you perceive them to be is imaginative thinking at its best. As the dialogue from Matrix goes “A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible”.

Comic novels written by humorists like P. G Wodehouse can have anybody, with matching sensibilities, in splits. Author E.B. White said “Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”As humor writing relies a lot on hyperbole, achieving the same through a realistic reconstruction of events might not always lend itself to iconic characters like Jeeves or Bertie Wooster.

Historical novels and movies have enabled people to relate to a face, making it much more personal and involved. They have also been credited with encouraging nationalist sentiments.  Novels based on First World War or the Third Reich still abound and bring the historical/political sentiments prevalent at that time into sharp relief. Political fiction like 1984 by George Orwell brought out the extremes of a dystopian society. Along the same lines are books around social issues or ’realistic fiction’ as they are called, acted as the literary means of protest and spread awareness of abuses far beyond political boundaries.

Suspense fiction, romance and thrillers are definitely the one’s which are closest to escapism via the adrenalin way. They have purportedly acted as sustenance for the strenuous intellectuals by giving an emotional release. A lot of people would have been unaware of the thrills of life on the fast lane or gained the rich knowledge of guns and the life of spies, of glances and veiled meanings, of the underworld and mafia, of crime and detective reasonings, if it were not for the Jason  Bournes and Hercule Poirots.

Just like a bird escaping from a cage, fiction can be viewed as escapism or freedom.But most definitely, our lives would have been a tad bit dull if it were not for these characters residing in the pages of fiction books.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

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4 thoughts on “Is fiction an escapism ?

  1. PhillyGuy

    I am surprised that you were surprised. Yes reading fiction is escapism. Healthy escapism though. Much like any other recreational activity that lets the mind “escape” from its drudgery. Theater, cinema, everything would fall under the same category. Unless one is practicing mindfulness and is in the moment completely, the mind will wander. IF one doesn’t let the wandering mind “escape” then it will resort to unhealthy means. Over thinking, depression, anxiety, phobias, obsessions, crazy fantasies you name it. The mind tends to create its own world. IMO the whole concept of maya or cosmic illusion is based on just that. Two ways to avoid that. Either meditate or let it “escape”. Ever wonder why time flies when you’re meditating or doing something that totally engrosses you? The wandering mind got tamed. It lost track of one dimension of maya, time. So escape my dear, escape to your heart’s content.

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