All posts by CRO

What makes a character fictional or not?

“In literature we require distinction, charm, beauty, and imaginative power. We don’t want to be harrowed and disgusted with an account of the doings of the lower orders…The only real people are the people who never existed, and if a novelist is base enough to go to life for his personages he should at least pretend that they are creations, and not boast of them as copies. The justification of a character in a novel is not that other persons are what they are, but that the author is what he is. Otherwise the novel is not a work of art.”

Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying. http://literature.proquest.com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/searchFulltext.do?id=Z000731336&divLevel=0&area=prose&DurUrl=Yes&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork

Here, the character Vivian explains how the “real people” (or characters) in novels are simply based on imagination. However, if the novelist decides to involve a person whom he or she knows within their text, they must “pretend” they are not real, or pretend they are “creations,” since if they include a real person, the novel would not be considered fiction — which, in this case, would not be considered “a work of art.”