Monday, December 13, 2010

What Is Fantasy?

Christy Hewitt
ENGL 299

What is fantasy? A question we have all tried to decipher. As we read these novels there seems to be a distinct formula for what makes up a fantastical novel. Their ‘out of this world’ plot and completely different character complexes challenge the reader to think outside of the box. In The Chronicles of Narnia we are introduced to what we see as fantasy that takes place through the real world. Throughout this essay I will attempt to discover what fantasy is and how it is different from the ‘real world.’

There are many different definitions of the word ‘fantasy.’ Some people define it as ‘a creative imagination’; others see it as ‘an invention of the mind.’ When entering this class I had no idea what to expect. I am not someone who is very into reading fantasy books because of their material. I define fantasy as ‘an escape from the real.’ The reason I define it that way is because that what I thought every book in the fantasy genre was doing. As I read these novels I am beginning to see it as something deeper.

In The Chronicles of Narnia, you are introduced to the Pevensie children. They live in the real world and happen to stumble into a world full of adventure, a world full of fantasy. As C.S. Lewis writes this series he gives life to every child’s imagination. Like in every genre, there is a protagonist (the children) and an antagonist (the white witch). It is a tale of how the Pevensie children band together to save the world of Narnia.

This has been one of my favorite fantasy novels to read because I was able to fully indulge myself into the reading. I found myself diving into the plot and reading for hours on end. I was in the best sense of the word, escaping. Just like the children did in the novel I was leaving my world of stress, college, work, and more work to join a world of Narnia.

The best part about this novel was that the children were faced with a huge obstacle; they had to save the world. I found myself thinking, “Why don’t they just go back to the real world where their only responsibility is being a kid?” Then about ten pages away from the end of the book it hit me: they want to be in this world. They wanted to be in that world just as much as I wanted to keep reading, as much as I wanted to be in that world. Escaping to the world Lewis had created was easy for them to do and they had so many ‘real world’ things to escape from. There was a war going on and people were dying, really dying because of the war and the children knew it (at least the two oldest did). The house they were in was, for lack of a better word, boring. Being in this brand new world was an escape from the turmoil of the real world. Being in control of their own destiny was something they may not have been able to do in the real world because they had other people making decisions for them but in this new world they were able to make their own choices and choose their own fate (even if that meant returning to the real world).

The world Lewis had created was everything a young child would want to be a part of. There were strange animals that talked, a massive lion with love in his heart, and an evil witch who wanted to control the world. Even though there was a war going on in their ‘new’ world, they were at the epicenter of this war and they had a say in being involved with it. They could save everyone in Narnia (and in the real world this would not have been considered possible). This is what drew the children deeper and deeper into this world.

There has been a fine line between fantasy and reality, a line in which many people can see distinctly. In this novel it is a line between the real world and the world of Narnia, and personally, I think the world of Narnia trumps earth any day. The point of being able to read fantasy is to read about something that is out of the norm, something that you don’t read about in the newspaper, something that you rarely see on TV, something that you don’t read in all the teen drama novels. Fantasy is meant to be read as ‘different.' This genre is something unlike any other genre out there. These authors, Lewis especially, created these worlds and wait for the readers to jump into them.

Now begs the question, well what makes fantasy different from science fiction. My answer, science fiction doesn’t go there. What do I mean by ‘there’? It delves on science and out of the ordinary phenomena. Fantasy fiction brings life to something never before thought of. The syfy channel on TV has all of the crazy out there shows but they don’t have shows about world warping wardrobes and broomstick like soccer games. Fantasy fiction goes even farther into the world of the unknown and thus attracts many fans to its stories.

The Chronicles of Narnia help define fantasy by being a novel about a new world that these children escape into. Not only do the children escape but the readers do as well. The only difference is that when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy return to the real world nothing has changed and time barely passes. When I return to the real world, 2 hours have passed and I still have to finish the rest of my homework before class the next day.

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