The Elements of Fiction

All texts may be organized into different groups depending of the main criterion of such separation. Thus, as the main reason for such typological organization of texts into groups serves some common feature represented by the same element of those texts. Through the proper use of the needed elements of texts, the writers achieve the effects demanded, and in this way appeal to those feelings of their readers they want to touch. In order to understand the connections between the texts that belong to the same subgenre, it is important at first to determine the same literary element that make them belonging to the same group. Three short texts such as “This Is Water” and “Laughing with Kafka” by David F. Wallace as well as “The Mesmerist” by Michael Knight serve as examples of short pieces of philosophical prose that share the same theme. Each of these texts appeals to new forms of experience and in this way they demonstrate people’s inevitable mental limitations as well as propose some new approaches to their overcoming. The common theme of three texts analyzed is the high attention to some everyday experience hidden under the cover of everyday practices that made its unrecognizable. 

“The Mesmerist” by Knight is a very sentimental short story based on the main character’s assumed ability to overcome other people’s will and in this way determine their behavior by his plan or commandments. In fact, the main characteristics of “The Mesmerist” is the final doubt of the reader toward the reality of the world around because the main character makes people to do all he wants without any doubts concerning his will to provide new social and political orders and laws in exchange for the law of the majority of society. In other words, each person may be in fact mesmerized as one of the secondary characters of the text as well as Penelope was. The ability to be mesmerized and conquered by some person’s will is itself the reason to doubt in all around because every detail may be the result of the mesmerizing illusion. Penelope never  understood that she lives with a person who mesmerized her and made her his follower despite her opinion concerning this question. In this way, “The Mesmerist” is a short story which explores the problems of illusion and reality, own and some person’s will.

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“This Is Water” is an allegorical philosophical essay based on the need of the main theoretical issues’ practical interpretation. It explores the fact of difference in the reality’s perception by different people, and thus it shows that in some ways people may be not sure concerning the most obvious and concrete things because of their too generalized character. The central metaphor of the text is the image of fish who mean people unable to recognize water in which they do swim. Certainly, such image is based on the exaggeration because people are too different from fish, and their ability to rethink and perceive the reality have the prevalence over any animals because of human natural inclination to intellectual activity. At the same time, most people as well as most of those fish and animals, do not face such fundamental questions that would demand answers equal to fish’s seeking for water. In this way, those people who do not recognize the delusive and doubtful character of the most general issues mostly just follow the general opinion and have no credible proofs of their beliefs. According to Wallace, “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day” . Thus, “This Is Water” operates with the motive of peoples’ delusive general presupposition that hide from them some uncertain and at the same time obvious truth.

Another text, “Laughing with Kafka”, also by David Wallace, concerns the exploration of the theme of humor in Kafka’s works. In fact, most people consider that Kafka’s prose is gloom and its main features are some horror themes that exploit the theme of human transformations and perversions. Kafka is not considered as a writer who would offer the reader to laugh, especially through the prism of the majority’s view. According to the author, the specific accents and antiheroic orientation of Kafka’s humor make it “inaccessible to children whom our culture has trained to see jokes as entertainment and entertainment as reassurance”. In this way, it is clear that the author considers Kafka to possess some specific form of wit most of the readers just can not perceive because of their inability to recognize it as humor due to the difference of their everyday practice from that. Through the contrast between the mass humor and Kafka’s humor, Wallace in fact criticizes most of the people for their blindness and points out that side of Kafka’s prose they missed. In this way, the main motive of the text is the demonstration of some proper way to understand such popular phenomenon as Kafka’s prose, incorrectly understood by people in accordance to the author’s opinion.

It is clear through the provided brief analysis of each text that all of them possess the same motive: the orientation on the uncovering of some hidden truth. In more detailed form that means the intention of these texts authors’ to oppose some general opinion in order to demonstrate an alternative one as a right one. The form of such ‘right’ opinion’s offer may be different. For example, Knight writes about such offer indirectly, with a wide use of poetic metaphors and symbolism, through the construction of a fictional situation of the mesmerizer’s relationships with Penelope. Penelope, as well as all other characters of the short story (except the mesmerizer himself) have no right vision of the situation, and in this way their will is governed by the mesmerizer who provides them his own interpretations of any detail of the reality. In fact, when the mesmerizer commands Penelope: “Every muscle in your body is limp now. I am pulling your eyes closed with silken threads”, it means the same if he made her to perceive in some specific way Kafka’s prose, for example (if comparing the mentioned texts). Every person may be on the place of the private investigator from “The Mesmerizer” when one tries to find out the truth concerning some issue, and in fact when the main character makes this private investigator to leave the state in order to follow a false trace, it is equal to the self-delusion based on incorrect presuppositions. In this way, Knight’s mesmerizer is the personified principle of the truth’ hiding, characteristic for both other texts that do not operate with such images because they formally tend to philosophical essays, not short stories, in fact.

The same motive makes all the texts analyzed oriented on the same epistemological problem of the truth’ recognition, and this detail makes possible the interpretation of these texts in a key of a philosophical essay’s subgenre (even despite the obvious formal difference of “The Mesmerizer”). Either fish from “This Is Water” or the mesmerizer, Penelope and the private investigator represent merely pure ideas, and in this way, the philosophical background of those texts is ensured by the same thematic orientation of them. Wallace writes about the general tendency to think in his “This Is Water”: It's the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world”. In fact, he just describes the point of view of those people who can not laugh with Kafka as well as those who can not overcome the generalizing influence of the almighty mesmerizer. This constant repeat of the same theme in different forms and settings demonstrates this theme’s particular independence from formal aspect of prose as well as from such elements as setting, characters, plot and so on. The appellation to the majority’s epistemological poverty serves as the main motive that overcome all limitations mentioned. Thus, the texts analyzed constitute a subgenre of philosophical texts that may formally differ each from other. Through this specific feature, it becomes clear that the formal thematic difference of the texts analyzed was not determining for their contextual unity provided by the same motive’s exploration.

In this way, the subgenre of a short philosophical essay appeals to some hidden aspects of the reality always acceptable and accessible, through the prism of some information previously neglected. Despite the thematic difference between the texts analyzed, it is clear that all of them treated the issues described in the same way: in accordance to their subgenre specifics. Thus, through the demonstration of some new dimensions of familiar sides of everyday subjects, the authors propose their readers to reconcile the multidimensional nature of those subjects, and in this way to understand the reality through the prism of different contexts. The contextual unity in some aspect correlates with the subgenre combination.

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May 28, 2020 in Informative
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