Tag Archives: make-believe

“Make-believe” is No Excuse

“It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only a “make-believe” (for what else is a “story”?) shall be in some degree apologetic–shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to represent life. […] The only reason for the existence of a novel is that is does attempt to represent life. When it relinquishes this attempt, the same attempt that we see on the canvas of painter, it will have arrived at a very strange pass” (James 377-8).

In this passage James addresses peoples’ fault in excusing “make-believe” stories from the normal practice of using stories to represent life. James believes that even the most fantastic stories are related to reality.

I like how James is not afraid to state what other people are ashamed to say.

 

James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillion, 1894. Internet Archive. 424-463.  https://archive.org/details/partialportraits00jameiala

 

James on breaking the fourth wall

“In a digression, a parenthesis or an aside, he concedes to the reader that he and this trusting friend are only ‘making believe.’ He admits that the events he narrates have not really happened, and that he can give his narrative any turn the reader may like best. Such a betrayal of a sacred office seems to me, I confess, a terrible crime; it is what I mean by the attitude of apology, and it shocks me every whit as much in Trollope as it would have shocked me in Gibbon or Macaulay. It implies the novelist is less occupied in looking for the truth (the truth, of course I mean, that he assumes, the premises that we must grant him, whatever they may be) than the historian, and in doing so it deprives him of a stroke of all his standing-room.”

James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” In Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillan, 1894. Internet Archive. http:// archive.org/details/partialportraits00jameiala.