Commercial vs. Literary Fiction
The divide between commercial and literary fiction, though not stark, can be clearly interpreted with the proper analysis. The short stories Roman Fever and The Cask of Amontillado are perfect examples of this. Both contain many of the same elements, but quickly differentiate with further examination.
In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Cask of Amontillado, the protagonist, Montressor, is driven to murder a former acquaintance by a mysterious and unexplained past event that has irreparably harmed him. Tricking him into believing he is treating Fortunato to a fine wine, Montressor seals him off in his crypt where presumably he dies. By having a character powerfully motivated by an event of the distant past, Poe employs a hallmark of literary fiction. While Edith Wharton’s short story Roman Fever also draws upon events of the past, they are presented in a much different light. Grace and Alida happen to meet up by accident, and are not motivated to execute a predetermined scheme as in the case of Montressor. Though we are not provided with details, the unfortunate events of Montressor and Fortunato’s past were one sided with the latter having an upper hand. Montressor balances this by murdering Fortunato. In Roman Fever, however, the two sparring women have actually reached an equilibrium of sorts by their past actions. Alida was married to Delphin for 25 years but Delphin had also fathered a child with Grace prior to his marriage to Alida. As with most works of commercial fiction, Roman Fever’s central focus is on the characters and their interactions. Fast paced, easy reading stems from this character development. The Cask of Amontillado, though, focuses on the plot as a whole and the repercussions of each characters actions rather than limiting itself to petty and often unnecessary dialogue amongst them.
The purpose of commercial fiction is to act as an escape from reality while literary fiction is intended to highlight its...
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