During my first degree in college, I found a lot of my teachers had an eerily similar view of literature, that for some reason nonfiction was so much important to read that fiction. In fact, most of my teachers refused to accept any fictional writing, saying nonfiction was more high brow. At the time, it really bothered me. While I do read and enjoy many nonfiction books, there is something so much more moving in fiction.
So today I am going to break down why I believe that fiction is just as important as nonfiction.
Only the jester can tell the truth
Most people know the phrase that the jester is the only person who can speak truth to the king. This phrase (though it may not have been true historically) basically means that a jester could criticize the king (speak truth to power, so to speak) through his jokes while not actually overtly criticizing the king and angering with him.
I personally see fiction like this. Under the guise of untruth, fiction is able to share darker truths than most nonfiction can easily convey. Fiction is able to dig deeper into human nature than nonfiction often can.
Let’s take a look at an example to illustrate my point. 1984 by George Orwell is fiction and depicts a fictional totalitarian world. He based it on the Soviet Union, headed by Joseph Stalin. However, I hear many people (on all sides of the political sphere) bringing up 1984 in reference to what is happening in current events. If Orwell had written a nonfiction book on the Soviet Union, condemning its government, the book would always be tied to the real government, not as applicable to others. But because it is a fictional world which does not exist, parts of it can be related back to our own world.
This is not to say nonfiction history books cannot be tied to current events, but it is easier to read a book criticizing a fictional type of government as opposed to your own government.
Seeing our own faults in fantasy
The same thing might applied to characters in fictional books dealing with human nature.
When you read a nonfiction book, often you equate experiences to individuals. For example, I can read a book like A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah about his experiences as a child soldier in Africa and appreciate his story, but I can’t really relate to him. His experiences are real, so I would never equate my father dying of a heart attack when I was fifteen to Beah horrifically losing his parents in war when he was twelve, even if both things really happened.
However, in fiction I don’t need to worry about equating my experiences to a real person, because characters in stories are fictional. I can read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevksy and see myself having similar pride to Raskolnikov, the main character, while not worrying about equating myself to a real murderer since he’s fictional. In a sense, fictional characters can be more real than nonfiction ones.
But what is your opinion about this topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you believe nonfiction is more important than fiction? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,