By Brenda W. Clough
I read this in a review of a book that I have already forgotten. But this concept – do we have here another peephole into fiction? As I recall the author said that at the bottom of all romance novels there was the (admittedly risible) doctrine that you could take a worthless, borderline psychopathic man and somehow by the application of True Love turn him into husband material. In other words, the emotional charge does not have to make any sense or stand up to reason. It is however the reason why that particular book was written, and the reason why readers love it. It is the subconscious of the book.
I took this tool and immediately went off into the flowery fields of fiction with it, the way a boy would carry a shiny new axe into the forest looking for targets. What is the emotional charge at the bottom of LOTR? Clearly it is that the suffering and sacrifice of the Very Small, the negligible foot soldiers, may save the war. For modern combat this is nonsense, as anyone who has studied war will tell you. It may have been true when Homer smote ‘is bloomin’ lyre. But how powerful that must have been to a post WW2 audience, and I note that the next boom period for LOTR was during the Vietnam War.
What about PRIDE & PREJUDICE? How about the necessity, against all odds and practicality, of hanging tough and waiting for true love? This seems a little surface and simplistic. What’s below that? Perhaps that you do not necessarily have to pay attention to the bottom line, that money is not central – and if you ignore it, it’ll somehow turn up in your life. Good luck with that.
What else could we do with it, this interesting tool? If you like a book, what is its emotional charge?
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