One of the best things about being a kid was getting read stories. Whether it was the teacher at school, or your parents that read to you, we first had out imagination switched into overdrive when we listened to novels. It was exciting as you put yourself into a completely different world and you went through the stories playing as the main characters. Trying to feel what their experiences could be like, interacting with their friends and hopefully wishing to make the right decisions. It's a shame then that as we get older, we stop reading novels in favor for magazines and online news articles. Little do we know what a disservice we’re doing to ourselves by not continuing to read books. Even if it's not fiction, we should be reading to keep our minds sharp and able to absorb and process complex information. However, novels do have the most philosophical impact in our lives, because of what they reveal about ourselves.
Source Beinecke Library
You’re not an angel
Horror, crime, drama and adventure genres often reveal our ruthless nature. In society, we like to think that we wouldn’t hurt someone almost in any case, least of all if it somehow only benefited us. This is because we have a sense of right and wrong but also a moral obligation to be fair. However, when we’re put into a situation where we have an option to make a harsh decision in our minds when reading a novel, we feel a little more free to be bad.
Treasure Island is one of the most famous books of all time. The Long John Silver character was pretty much made famous and some say born in the mind of the author Robert Louis Stevenson. He is kind on the surface but a ruthless murderer underneath. He has one leg so he garners sympathy from strangers. Yet, as we read through the plot, we begin to be more and more like him. We hope that his treachery is repaid in full, just the way he would act, with pure violence. We suddenly lose our ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, and we want to see him shot by a musket or cut into pieces by the Cutlass of the captain. Just like John, we too reveal our bloodlust.
You’re not that tough
One of the great things about horror novels is that, we are challenged in a primal sense. Our fight or flight mechanism is activated, and we try to imagine what we would do when being attacked, haunted, hunted and being tortured. One of the most powerful books by Stephen King ‘The Shining’ does this is spades. We put ourselves in the shoes of little Danny and Wendy, the son and wife of Jack who goes insane. Secluded and far away from civilization and the rule of law, we are challenged by the notion that we must kill the people we love to survive. Haunted by the slaughter or thousands, the hotel reveals the dark side of humanity. We’re frightened by our own capabilities of savagery and murder of loved ones by our own hands.
Fiction novels take us on journeys of not just different worlds and lives, but into our own minds. We show parts of our psyche that we normally keep locked up. Reading such books can show us that we’re not that tough but we’re not that innocent and void of sin either.