In Defense of Historical Fiction Essay

In Defense of Historical Fiction Essay

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The genre of historical fiction novels can be subdivided into many categories and often crosses genres, such as historical mysteries and romances. The traditional definition of the historical fiction genre is “fiction set in the past” where the author is writing from research rather than personal experience. This definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation, controversy, and contradiction. Critics in the media, even when they praise individual historical novels in their reviews, somehow manage to turn this praise into criticism of the genre as a whole. In 1950, author Howard Fast, a historical novelist himself, wrote: “This is an era of many historical novels, few of them good and very few indeed which have more than a nodding acquaintance with fact.” (Johnson, historicalnovelsociety.org) Fast criticizes historical fiction authors by saying most examples of the genre are based more on fiction and imagination rather than actual historical fact. At first glance, historical fiction novels might appear to be detrimentally numerous and disrespected for taking imaginative liberties presenting actual historical fact, but with a closer look it becomes apparent there are many examples of good historical fiction where the author centers the tales not on the historical setting but on the plot which educates the reader to better understand themes and life in the past, as well as, through the use of imagination gives plausible explanations of mysterious or unknown events.
While I agree it is true historical novels have the reputation of being costume period dramas, in which the author’s need to cram all the prodigious research into a single novel sometimes overwhelms the plot; I would like to point out history has produced many his...


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...elieve if readers give the genre a chance they can learn about past events, themes, and ways of life while at the same time enjoying a fictional story. The most successful novels of this genre are ones where the author uses his/her imagination to weave a believable plot and create characters who manage to transcend time and speak to us from their own perspective in a way which educates readers about the culture of life in the past.



Works Cited

Johnson, Sarah. “What are the Rules for Historical Fiction?” www.historicalnovelsociety.org/historyhic.htm n.d.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Charles L. Webster & Co, 1884.
Print.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Little House on the Prairie. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1937. Print.
Follett, Ken. Lie Down with Lions. Tiptree, Colchester Essex, U.K: Signet Publishers, 1986. Print.

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