I imagine most people would refuse to be inoculated against feelings of grief, if such a thing were possible. This is despite the fact that we, generally, try to avoid it.
Except vicariously in the form of drama.
In stories, hitting rock bottom is usually necessary so you can land the catharsis effectively, but that still doesn’t explain why people actively seek out material that makes them cry.
Maybe it’s like horror stories where we experiment with undesirable emotions from a safe place, to test our mettle.
Grief in life will often come with shock, even if expected. It can take the wind out of our sails, create a sense of being suspended or thrown off course.
Grief in fiction by contrast, is designed, and meticulously so. The purpose of stories is to put you through the wringer emotionally, to make you feel one way, suddenly the other way, then back to the first way only more. Rinse. Repeat.
We should not underestimate the value of fiction. It might be that getting into that character’s skin is a kind of dress rehearsal for the trials of real life. We may be inspired to heroics, cautioned against wickedness and made to empathize with those whose world we cannot relate to.
It’s been argued, I think very well, that the proliferation of the novel contributed to widespread adoption of humanitarian ideas.
Thankfully, we live in a world where, if you can’t afford the price of a plane ticket, you can surely get to Middle Earth.
This has been the eighty-sixth publication of Dressing Gown, a daily blog from Ted Janet.