Interpretive vs. Escapist

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Interpretive vs. Escapist

As defined by Arp and Johnson, commercial fiction, or escapist literature, is “fiction written to meet the taste of a wide popular audience and relying usually on tested formulas for satisfying such taste” (Arp 744). Arp and Johnson also state that literary fiction, otherwise known as interpretive literature, is “fiction written with serious artistic intentions, providing an imagined experience yielding authentic insights into some significant aspect of life” (Arp 745). In “Once upon a Time”, Nadine Gordimer uses a unique combination of both interpretive and escapist literature styles to portray a message that there is no way to absolutely guarantee a person’s safety. Although Nadine Gordimer does use some elements of the escapist literature style to develop this piece of fiction, the story is primarily interpretive literature. Arp and Johnson state that “literary fiction plunges us, through the author’s imaginative vision and artistic ability, more deeply into the real world” (Arp 4). In “Once upon a Time”, Gordimer leaves the reader to his or her own insights as to what could have been done to avoid the particular outcome. She does not point out any particular moral to the story, but instead lets the reader absorb the family’s plight. The escapist style is recognized in the bedtime story that the narrator creates—the story within the story. In this story the emphasis is on plot rather than on character development, and the characters are obviously lacking the full dynamic quality that the reader identifies in the round character. Yet, again, unlike escapist literature, the conclusion of this story is far from the “happily ever after” endings of its type, and, being that there is no real moral to the story, in this way also, it is thus rendered more interpretive. The interpretive style is also apparent in the author’s choice of plot. The plot, unlike the typical escapist piece of literature, is non-linear; the ending,...
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