Nepenthe and Jant Depict the Possible and the Impossible
With similar approaches of showing the reader the distinctions between the impossible and the possible, Alphabet of Thorn and The Year of Our War are more alike than at first glance. In these two fantasy novels each author treats and explains to the reader the question of what is possible and what is impossible very similarly. With each author employing the use of a first person narrator the reader is able to see through their eyes the ways in which things are possible or not possible in these other worlds. In a fantasy story, like each of these novels, the author shows the reader the impossible in the text and then continues to engage the reader but does not try and explain and render the impossible as something that is plausible and possible. Patricia McKillip and Steph Swainston both use these techniques in their novels.
In Alphabet of Thorn Patricia McKillip presents an alternate world that uses a magical library and an ordinary orphan to develop a plot and setting. At first glance the reader begins to realize that this world is unlike their own because the reader does not have a community and society that functions and is arranged like the one in the novel. From a definition standpoint, cognition of the impossible is established where “we realize, usually early on in fantasy, that the accepted ground rules of our reality are in some significant way being contravened.” McKillip portrays the setting as a world unlike reality and adds aspects of things the reader is able to understand while at the same time makes it known and obvious that it is a world unlike the one the reader is living in. For example, in reality there may be orphans and libraries and translators, but a...
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...o see the restrictions of the world. Through Nepenthe’s thoughts and ponderings about the order of history we learn about the realm in which she lives. In Jant’s life we get a first person narrative with many flashbacks that include details that help show the reader what is expected and normal and therefore possible in his world. Through the Shift and Jant’s drug use the reader is given a view of things that are abnormal and impossible in Jants “real world.” Each author is unique in delivering of these boundaries, but each uses a similar device to tell the reader what is impossible and what is possible in these other worlds. From both of these authors the reader can learn more about fantasy and the ways in which authors develop intense and unique settings with diverse characters that challenge the readers to think about their own world and the laws and beliefs in it.
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