From books (and movies), we learn so much. We learn about life, love, despair, hatred, regret, sadness, and happiness. At the same time, those are the least things books could teach us about reality.
Despite many other quotations saying how books can truly change someone’s life, let alone teach its readers a lot of things about life (like, real life experiences, or the philosophy of life itself; recently I read The Castle in the Pyrenees by Jostein Gaarder which deals with a lot of life philosophical stuffs), when it comes to how (oh yes, the most irritating question ever), books don’t really teach us anything. No, sir, nothing.
Books surely cover a lot of theme–as well as movies, as I have also mentioned movies in the quotation–romance, revenge, discrimination, religions, etc etc. Lan Cao, in her novel Monkey Bridge tells a story of Vietnamese immigrants who moved to the States during the Vietnam war, and was struggling to adjust to American life and culture. The books shows how they deal with the cross-cultural experience by the story narrated by Mai and her mother, Thanh. Mai, as the second generation of the Vietnamese-American was adjusting very well while her mother, on the other hand, was having a shock culture.
Of course, the story of Mai and her mother are merely fictional characters, so their life story could not be a true story, but the theme of the story is not unusual. Similar topic could also be found in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.
Jostein Gaarder, in most of his novels, always write stories where the characters always question the truly meaning of life (Sophie’s World, The Solitaire Mystery, The Castle in the Pyrenees). In The Castle in the Pyrenees, which I recently read, the story revolves around two main characters: Steinn and Solrun, two ex-lovers who reunited and then exchanging emails, sharing and asking opinions about life and God. Solrun, as the religious one, asked Steinn what his belief is, and Steinn stated his doubt on superstitious things, including God and His miracles.
Again, I think this is a common subject.
There are many people who are doubting the existence of God and claim to be atheist. There are many people who only believe in what they can see, and things that can only be explained logically by science.
In The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber wrote a story about a prostitute named Sugar, who became a mistress of William Rackham (the bastard William Rackham!) and later climbed her way up to the elite society of England–well, not really ‘elite,’ I suppose, since Sugar turned from a prostitute to the governess of William’s daughter. While Sugar is indeed the main character of the novel, the story doesn’t revolve around her alone. The novel also covers the story of William’s older brother, Henry, who is complete the opposite of William: religious, and think only the best of the world.
This is not something uncommon as well, isn’t it? Even in modern times, we still have the so-called elite society, although the elites now are not so proud that they don’t wanna have anything to do with others who are not as wealthy as them. We also have prostitutes (or what most people refer to as ‘hooker,’ I guess), as well as people who devoted their lives to be clergymen.
The story is not based on something unreal.
Even science fiction novels–even if we haven’t really had any aliens or a super sophisticated spaceship like the ones in Star Trek–still deals with the most common topic in the present days: romance, hatred, anger, revenge, and blah-blah-blah.
Let’s bring up something more… cheesy. I could seriously refer to Indonesian sinetron. Whereas the stories are mostly overly exaggerated, yet the theme revolves around things that we found in everyday lives: breakups, dating, and perhaps jealousy.
Yet, referring to my earlier quotes: they could show us the worst thing that could ever happen in life–a guy got mutilated (I really need to stop watching NCIS and Criminal Minds), a girl being abused by her own mother, and treated like Cinderella (servant), a boy threatening a girl that he would jump from the 10th floor if the girl didn’t accept her love, etc etc–but when dealing with reality, no matter how similar the condition and situation we’re in with the ones in movies or novels, it never is the same.
We could always refer back to those books or novels we’re reading or watching, of course, (ohhh, this is just like the scene I just watched on Gossip Girl last night!) but when it comes to making decision, we have to come up with our own answer. We’re on our own.
In reality, life is never as beautiful/miserable/simple/complicated as movies/novels. In real life, we experience some climaxes–we experience hardships, adversities, sadness, and such–but we don’t always experience the closure, or what we always identify as the endings in novels and movies. Some of us got closure, but it might take days, weeks, months, and even years. And then the others might not even got their closures. The problems simply disappears and never solved. People experience the anticlimaxes without ever knowing the endings.
There’s a reason why I hate open-ending stories, and at the same time I love it: because I think open-endings are a glimpse of realities that the story could offer–not knowing how and when the story would end.
But I guess you all knew that already ;)