If religion is true, one must believe. And if one chooses not to believe, one's choice is marked under the category of a refusal, and is thus never really free: it has the duress of a recoil.' With literary belief, however, 'one is always free to choose not to believe.' This, Wood argues, is the freedom of literature; it is what constitutes its 'reality.
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When I talk about free indirect style I am really talking about point of view, and when I talk about point of view I am really talking about the perception of detail, and when I talk about detail I'm really talking about character, and when I talk about character I am really talking about the real, which is at the bottom of my inquiries.
Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, wheras literature teaches us to notice. Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.
Publishers, readers, booksellers, even critics, acclaim the novel that one can deliciously sink into, forget oneself in, the novel that returns us to the innocence of childhood or the dream of the cartoon, the novel of a thousand confections and no unwanted significance. What becomes harder to find, and lonelier to defend, is the idea of the novel as-in Ford Madox Ford's words-a 'medium of profoundly serious investigation into the human case.
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Perhaps this is what Henry James meant when he talked about the 'irresponsibility' of characters. Characters are irresponsible, art is irresponsible when compared to life, because it is first and foremost important that a character be real, and as readers or watchers we tend to applaud any effort made towards the construction of that reality. We do not, of course, indulge actual people in the world this way at all. In real life, the fact that something seems real to someone is not enough to interest us, or to convince us that that reality is interesting. But the self-reality of fictional characters is deeply engrossing, which is why villains are lovable in literature in ways that they are not in life.
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The vitality of literary character has less to do with dramatic action, novelistic coherence, and even plain plausibility-let alone likeability-than with a larger philosophical or metaphysical sense, our awareness that a character's actions are deeply important, that something profound is at stake, with the author brooding over the face of that character like God over the face of the waters.
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