Everyone is aware that reading is an essential tool in emerging a successful life. Reading allows a person to take on new ideas and sharpen their intellect. Unfortunately, many people are too consumed with reading nonfiction books to the point that fiction books are forgotten. While nonfiction books help a person improve their lifestyle, fiction is still a gold mine that is not tapped into as often. The limits of storytelling are explored in, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin, and, “Good Old Neon” by David Foster Wallace. In addition to these two readings, Barry Targan’s article, “Where does Fiction go?” also demonstrates the value of fictional stories. All these works establish the idea that fiction helps us understand the perspectives of other people, it helps us understand truths about our world through the idea of evolution, and it helps us understand everything in the world and society.
Works of fiction help us understand the perspectives of other people. Firstly, fiction puts us in other people’s points of view through imagery. That means that readers can connect with the characters of stories and the actions of characters. For example, in, “Good Old Neon”, the main character describes himself with powerful imagery that sets up the reader to immediately put themselves in the character’s position. The story begins with the narrator saying, “My whole life I’ve been a fraud. I’m not exaggerating.” (Wallace 141). This quote is a good demonstration of how a story can allow readers to view the world from a different perspective, and form ideas based on what they read. Secondly, fiction allows us to analyze stories to form ideas and reveal truths about the world based on the symbols and plot provided in fictional stories. Fictional stories all tend to have an underlying message, such as in, “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas” where the main message was all about the fact that happiness has a price to it. In this story, it is all about citizens living in a happy utopia, however, they all must be made aware that their happiness comes at a cost of one child who is isolated and suffering for the sake of everyone else. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelasis a great example of a story that has several underlying meanings. Therefore,this proves that fiction is something that allows us to think and articulate ideas about what the author wants to let the world think about. Thirdly, fiction allows a person to change, because fiction allows us to understand things that we have never understood before.
BothThe Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasandGood Old Neonshowcase important lessons for the reader to understand. These lessons help shape the lifestyle and intellect of a person. For example, inGood Old Neon,when Neal was thinking about killing himself, he was thinking of the little things in life, “This is the last time I will look at this rubber tree on top of the stereo cabinet…” (Wallace 174). This quote gives several lessons for the reader to grasp. One of the main lessons is to let the reader understand the mental suffering that a suicidal person faces. Another lesson from this quote would be for the reader to realize that a person must enjoy the little things in life as if they were going to die tomorrow. In“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, the narrator describes people walking away from Omelas after seeing the suffering child, “But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.” (LeGuin 57). Omelas is a symbol of happiness and eternal satisfaction, but when people realize the cost of happiness, they are strong enough to conquer darkness and live their own life outside of a perfect utopia. The lesson for the reader here is to recognize that all suffering happens so that happiness is truly appreciated and enjoyed. Both fictional stories teach the reader about important lessons; therefore, fiction allows people to reveal truths from the story and apply it to their own lives.
Fiction reveals truths about life through the idea of evolution. To begin, fiction teaches the idea of evolution of society. Every fictional story has the same format, a beginning, a middle and an end. This format represents evolution. Fictional stories either display evolution in the story through character development or a series of events in the story. In Ursula LeGuin’s,“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”,evolution is shown when forming a comparison between the characters of the story at the beginning and the characters at the end of the story. In the beginning, everything is flawless, “Omelas, bright-towered by the sea” (LeGuin 53). Even the boats on the harbor are described as “sparkly”, and the houses had “red” roofs. However, at the end of the story we see the characters evolve from living a happy life to, “walking into the darkness”, “They leave Omelas, they walk into the darkness…” (LeGuin 57). Thanks to these kinds of examples, the reader can develop ideas and understand truths about evolution within all aspects of life. Also, fictional writing is teaching readers that everything evolves, individuals evolve and therefore all the elements of society and civilization evolve.
Furthermore, fiction allows us to see the evolution from a broad perspective. In the previous example mentioned regarding the characters of Omelas, the characters evolve through an expedited timeline. This is valuable because it helps the reader realize the evolution of a character in a way that they would not be able to in their normal life. The reader can see the characters developing from an outsider’s perspective, which makes it easier to understand the changes taking place in the story. Therefore, the reader can connect this to changes and evolution that happen throughout their lifetime. Finally, fiction allows people to understand the world around us. Good Old Neonshows us the development of a character in a state of self-search. Neal in the story considers himself a fraud and is on a journey to try and find a way to solve his frustration. Throughout the story, Neal evolves and goes through various events, but with all these developments that Neal goes through, the reader can easily connect with them.
This form of evolution is very important because as we watch characters evolve, we understand human evolution on an individual scale, and therefore one can apply it to themselvesand the people around them. Everyone sees the world in pieces; however, fiction helps piece the world together. Fiction, in general, allows us to form ideas and reveal realities about the world. Firstly, fiction reveals truths about society. Fiction connects with many people that are “broken” and emotional, this means that readers easily connect with fictional stories. When one reads books that have a horrific or dark storyline, one will realize how broken the world is. In Good Old Neon, the entire story is about a person who is broken inside and ends up killing himself; “Iwoke up having decided I was going to kill myself and end the whole farce” (Wallace 169). The reader might think about the dark storyline and broken world in Good Old Neon and realize that the same broken world can be seen in real life. Therefore, these kinds of dark fictional stories reveal truths to the reader about society. Secondly, fiction contains elements such as conflict, horror, and jealousy. These same elements are what define humans. Many works of fiction will use these elements that allow readers to associate them with their character traits in real life. For example, The Ones Who Walk from Omelas has a plot that shows the sensitivity of people. Some people in Omelas are so scarred after seeing the suffering child that they decide to leave the eutopia; “At times one of the adolescent boys or girls…” (LeGuin 57). The humane traits that are shown by the characters in this story relate to readers who might also reflect on how society would react if this was real. Good Old Neon is also a great example of how a person can be very narcissistic, but at the same time questioning their ego. Neal is unaware of his own character and he is trying to search for meaning in his life;” Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to…” (Wallace 141).
A reader might associate this quote with mental health awareness in society and because Neal was suicidal, a reader might think about how suicidal people are treated in the world. Besides, readers easily connect with Good Old Neon because humans constantly search for meaning in their own life. Therefore, readers associate themselves with what they read. This further allows them to develop ideas about themselves and connect them with ideas in the world. Thirdly, fiction gives readers ideas that change them. Barry Targan mentions in his article that, “Writers are changed by what they write, and so readers changed by what they read.” (Targan 262). This reinforces the idea that whatever readers read, they will be affected. Anyone can reveal several themes and ideas about the storyline in Good Old Neon or The Ones Who Walk from Omelas.
These themes can then be linked with real-world connections and comparisons. Next, the ideas that a person formulates from the comparisons and connections can help in understanding the main message that the author is sending through their stories. Good Old Neon has the main theme of self-discovery, and The Ones Who Walk from Omelas has the theme of the idea that there is always a cost to happiness. Both themes can be applied in real life with real-world comparisons. A reader might consider how they are going through a journey of self-search and purpose to life, just like Neal, or maybethe reader is evaluating the troubles they are going through in their own life to find happiness All of these ideas that a reader might consider while reading fiction will aid in their understanding of themselves, of society and therefore of the world. Therefore, fiction teaches people all about the world and society through several ideas given through fictional stories. In conclusion, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”by Ursula LeGuin, and,“Good Old Neon”by David Foster Wallace, display the endless limits of fictional stories. Barry Targan’s article, “Where does Fiction go?”also shows the importance of fictional stories. All these works prove that fiction helps us understand the perspectives of other people, understand truths about our world through evolution, and helps us understand everything in the world and society.