Until a few days ago, violence in literature was as it seems to be–punches are thrown and arms are scratched…so is the natural way; because, as humans, we tend to fight over the silliest of trifles. Then I read the chapter More Than It’s Gonna Hurt You–Concerning Violence in this book, learning violence has it uses for story as well as historical purposes…
Until a few days ago, Edgar Allen Poe was but a fantastic Gothic writer with a knack for the detective story, and who penned some of the darkest tales to haunt literature. Then I read the chapter It’s All Political in this book, learning Poe wrote The Fall of the House of Usher and The Masque of the Red Death partially over social class issues in his country.
Violence is now more than ever an essential piece of storytelling.
Our world cannot function without violence, so too cannot literature; no conflict is no story.
Must violence must be dealt out by fists or guns? Can it not as well be a covert violence, such as the government blackmailing in Ender’s Game; or an open yet restrained violence like the public shaming of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter?
Violence does not always blood produce…though it is a common symptom.
Any Chuck Palhuniak book, specifically Fight Club, deals the classic type–good ol’ brawling and beating; but that, too, serves to illustrate the gritty tone of the novel and its psychological effects on the main character, a wrestler.
There are some exceptions–quite a few are classics, but even when no noses are broken or ankles twisted, an act of violence is committed, be it insult or embarrassment; for instance, in the book I am currently reading, Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, the focal point of the story is when the main character murders the old woman pawnbroker, the violence of which carries the character into a deepening self-hatred and guilt complex that could be his destruction.
Murder, as all know, is the the sincerest form of violence; and this murder orchestrates a chorus line of other conflicts, each growing darker than its origin…
Poe is known for his dark violence–take a gander at The Pit and the Pendulum or The Black Cat if you disagree; but when reading the afore mentioned short stories one can also see influences of his personal politics–a disliking towards aristocracy. In The Fall of the House of Usher it is the siblings who represent the wealthy families, and the brokenness and ultimate decimation of their house is a message on the deterioration of material possessions; in The Masque of the Red Death the fortunate nobility thinking themselves untouchable by the sweeping plague are slaughtered in their leisure.
These examples do not mean Poe is a practicing politician, but, so says Foster, “…most works must engage with their own specific period in ways that can be called political.”
Frank Herbert, the acclaimed author of the Dune series, is, to me, painting a picture of the exceedingly religious state of the Middle East in his novels. In the first story the Fremen, a wandering desert people, worship the main character Paul Arrakis, who they refer to as the prophet Muad Dib; and towards the end of the novel commit the first battle of their galactic jihad–this is how the war is termed in the book.
I could tell when he first mentioned jihad.
But the politics in Dune are like the color white in Moby-Dick–they enhance the experience of the tale, and do not detract from the story itself because of an overflowing symbolical or allegorical expression; and even in Dune the tones of religion act more so as a biopsy than a comparison.