Historical Fiction In The Underground Railroad

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History and historical fiction are virtually identical, realistically only being separated by one major difference; history is an account of the past, presented through facts while historical fiction recognizes the facts but is flexible with the author’s use of fiction. At face value, historical fiction appears to be virtually pointless; why would fiction be relevant in history, a recollection of the past based on facts? A historical novelist, Steve Wiegenstein, discussed the purpose of historical fiction in his writing “Understanding the Past” where he states, “We turn to historical fiction not for a comprehensive understanding of an era or event but for a sense of what the lived experience of that era would have been like; not for what happened,…show more content…
History today is generally taught as overview of a specific time period, recognizing things that happened in the past but never plunging farther than material on the surface. Colson Whitehead’s novel, “The Underground Railroad” uses the concept of historical fiction to stress an interpretation of history through fictional humanization and other literary devices, motivating emotional appeal in the reader with a specific story, albeit fictional. By developing pathos, novels resembling Whitehead’s are able to give the world a new account of history—one that is likely to be more memorable due to the influence on human appeal. While the novel uses fiction to explore history, it does so without taking away the reality of history, using the facts presented in the story to build logos. Historical fiction novels allow the reader to explore outdated philosophies by presenting the information from a different perspective with pressure on having an authentic mindset from the time. Historical fiction authors such as Whitehead use the idea of “entertainment” value, better described as emotional appeal (pathos) to their advantage, manipulating the reader into learning details from a historical time period that they wouldn’t otherwise obtain from a textbook. The genre breaks down extensive topics such as slavery into individual accounts that are representative of the overall ideas in history, without overwhelming the reader with seemingly endless content. While at first glance historical fiction seems to be a rather trivial concept, with further examination it proves to be much more complex, using literary devices to leave the reader with an unforgettable view of
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