Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ambivalence in Fiction

Sorry I've been quiet ... life is insane. Here's a bit of a quote from an essay I just submitted. The theme is Poe, and I claimed that his story served to create a sense of ambivalence in readers - and uses claustrophobia to enhance it. To support why the heck you'd want to do that anyway:

Ambivalence is a powerful force in fiction because it leaves the reader unsettled. If a writer leaves clear signposts that a character is the hero – and portrays them with sufficient skill – then the reader feels frightened when the character is in jeopardy and relieved when they escape. The emotion is generally resolved in the mind of the reader and then forgotten. If a writer manages to create a sense of ambivalence, however, the reader may find himself in a state of emotional suspension. He cannot simply resolve the issue and move on. Many of the best stories cause these uncertainties to linger in the minds of readers. Claustrophobia can enhance this ambivalence because it metaphorically traps the reader. If the sense of being shut in is conveyed vividly enough, it transfers to the reader, just as reading about a frightening situation can cause his heart to race.

In reading Poe, what I was really impressed with was the flow of the language. It's very rhythmic, including the use of punctuational tricks you couldn't get printed nowadays. (So many good things have been thrown out with the bathwater of advances in literature! But I digress.)

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