Mortality In Fiction
Research suggests that the most popular literary theme in fiction is love. No surprise there! But would you like to hazard a guess as to what might be the second most popular?
Surprising? I thought so too-until I sat down and really thought about it. Although seemingly an unpalatable subject (after all, who would want to pin a date on their own death?), it is something that touches us all in our journey through life, defines us in enumerable ways, and influences a fair bit of our thinking process throughout our human existence. The questions surrounding mortality and our continued fight against acceptance that at some point we may just ‘cease to exist’, fuel both religious doctrine, superstitious and spiritualist beliefs, and many many fictional books.
Do We Want To Be Living Forever?
We are constantly and enduringly fascinated with fictional accounts of parallel existence, alternative realities and genetic engineering. Films such as ‘The Fountain’ present immortality as attainable, whilst books such as ‘The Book Thief’ (Markus Zusak) explore the nature of death, in this case by death himself acting as narrator. Mortality is an increasing theme even in children`s literature (Think J.K Rowling`s ‘Harry Potter’ series-with its persuasive theme of death, explored constantly from the death of Harrys parents right through to Voldemort`s final attempt to become immortal). Given that these are indeed fictional works and therefore not entirely based upon reality, why are they so captivating?
Academics suggest that we use this type of fiction as a believable depiction of strange or unknown events. Death, afterlife, immortality, and unknown realities are experiences we cannot try out, or test. Instead, we immerse ourselves in fictional simulations of what might be-a hypothesis in place of what we actually know or can prove. They provide us with a high degree of realism whilst not preaching an assumed truth in the way religion might do so.
Fiction Lights The Way
In this way, both writers and readers delve far into the realms of what might be; into the imaginations of space and time, and of spirit and body; of other worlds and creatures, and of where we came from along with where we may be going. Without a doubt, as one fictional work builds on another, the fantastical ideas within our minds create more and more compelling and engaging concepts, and many outstanding and superbly written works.