Literary Fiction on Contemplation as the Goal

by Cristina H
(Dover, NH )

Question: I suppose the genre will most likely be a Literary Fiction since the focus is on philosophical questions. Can you suggest some works/books where Contemplation may be the Goal? Thank you so much, your website is a great resource especially for someone like me. I am just starting to nurture the desire to write my true life story, but since most events are so complex bordering unfathomable, I intend to use Literary Fiction.

Answer: Offhand, there are not a lot of stories with contemplation as the overall story goal, at least in the way Dramatica defines the term. These would be stories in which everyone is concerned about discovering the right way to think about an issue, or perhaps affected by whether a person in power can learn to evaluate issues in the best way.

One example that comes to mind, though not literary fiction, would be the science fiction film, I, Robot. In this story, robots and computers are given a core command that says they must proactively prevent human beings from coming to harm.

The problem is that a super-advanced computer thinks about this command and realizes the only way to carry it out is to stop humans from harming each other, which means it has to take over the world and turn it into a giant prison in which humans have no freedom. (The computer also decides that achieving this goal is worth the cost of harming some humans along the way.)

The story goal is to
have the robots learn to weigh these issues differently, which is achieved by creating a robot with compassion. This new robot has a second processing unit, or "heart" that tells it that taking away freedom is also a type of harm. Thanks to his "heart," the new robot can weigh the issues in a different, more balanced way and reject the supercomputer's conclusions.

An example of a story in which the main character's personal concern (not the overall concern) is one of contemplation is the YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars. In this book, the main character, Hazel-Grace, expects to die of cancer at a young age. She struggles with the challenge of how to live a meaningful life under these circumstances.

Initially, she adopts the cold-blooded realistic stance that says we live in an uncaring universe where death is inevitable and life is ultimately meaningless. The trouble is, she can't live her life from that stance and so becomes withdrawn and depressed.

The alternative presented to her is blind optimism, in the form of a boyfriend who is determined that his life will have meaning despite all the evidence to the contrary (he's also dying of cancer).

Eventually, Hazel-Grace learns to reconcile these two stances by embracing the idea that there can be "smaller infinities," and choosing to see her life as one of them. In other words, she learns to live in the moment, as if that moment were infinite and despite knowing that her life is limited.

Hope that helps.

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