Is it really fiction?

“Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.”
-Marcel Proust

Recently I’ve been reflecting on how we can unconsciously make such strong connections to works of fiction. We know the story isn’t real, but somewhere in there we have found a little bit of ourselves. Sometimes it’s a character’s reflection of ourselves, our past revisiting us in a new form, or perhaps even a story we long for for ourselves. Probably the most common of these connections is that between ourselves and a character. We tell ourselves that they’re not real, and yet when they’re happy, we smile with them; when they sorrow, we share their tears; when they grieve, we mourn the loss of a friend; when they achieve great things, we feel a little taller; and when they break with their conscience, we experience guilt.

We want the best for this person we’ve grown attached to, and we often find ourselves unable to stop reading. And when we’ve found a little bit of ourselves in a character, we wait with bated breath to find out how their story will end, hoping to uncover a little hope for our own lives down the road. Such is my case. My logic and reason scream at me to ignore this emotional nonsense as I usually do, but these cries go unheeded. Why, I cannot explain. I deeply believe in the power of the mind, but there seem to be times when something strikes a resounding chord within us that no tricks of the mind can dampen.

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