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Does Fiction Build The Morality Of Individuals And Societies, Or Does It Break It Down?

1361 words - 6 pages

In this day and age we spend an extensive amount of time engrossed in literary works, films, television shows and other forms of fiction. Some see this in a positive light, contending that fictitious stories cultivate our mental and moral development. Others however have argued that fiction is mentally and ethically obstructive. Posing the age old question: Does fiction build the morality of individuals and societies, or does it break it down?

“The goal, I suppose, any fiction writer has, no matter what your subject, is to hit the human heart and the tear ducts and the nape of the neck and to make a person feel something about the characters are going through and to experience the moral paradoxes and struggles of being human.”
-Tim O'Brien

It is undeniable that fiction has had the power to influence society in the past. History tells, for if you were to go back far enough, you would be able to find evidence of many book burnings having taken place. Consider the book burnings which took place under Hitler’s reign. These books being written commonly by Jews, were usually regarded as being pacifist or against the war and concerned with new educational methods and intellectual opinion. Such destruction would never have taken place if fictitious literary works, weren’t viewed as dissident material which undermined the ideologies of the national socialist administration. This in itself is historical recognition and proof of the influential and distinct power that literature possesses. Why else would it have scared, arguably the most powerful and simultaneously ruthless leader our world has seen yet?

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life” (Faber from Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury) This quote puts emphasis on the fact that fictitious works are in fact able to present real life value. It acknowledges the way in which the intimacy that writers pour into their works of fiction are able to grab hold of people in a way that non fiction is unable to conquer. this leads us to a quote by an incredible writer, Oscar Wilde; “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” I find this to be the reason that fiction is able to touch us in such a special and personalized manner. The words we read come from the deepest crevasses of a mans being, only hidden behind their characters.

Until recent studies in psychology and ‘broad based literary analysis’ surfaced, we were unable to assume the actuality of any psychological effects on both individuals and societies. Now however psychologists and literary analysts have succeeded in being able to recognize and support such assumptions.

This research consistently proves that fiction is in fact able to mold and influence the reader. Fiction even proved to be more effective at altering beliefs and mind sets than non-fiction, which differs by aiming to persuade and inform through arguments and evidence....

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