In contrast with these older statements of purpose is the assumption prevailing among the more serious of modern novelists that fiction is primarily concerned with giving a picture of life. This aim is set forth not only in explanation of their own work, but as a test of the value of that of others, irrespective of intention. By it is displayed the peculiar danger of “novels with a purpose,” whether that purpose is moral or social. They point out that Richardson’s method of “exemplars,” whether of virtue to be imitated or vice to be shunned, is apt to result in creations snow-white or pitch black, which fail in truth because human nature, even in the best and worst, is a complex of good and evil; and which fail in effectiveness, because the reader finds no corroboration in his experience and remains unconvinced of their reality. Similarly the novelist with a theory to prove, of the stupidity or cruelty of bad poor laws, foul prisons, red tape and the law’s delays, as in Dickens; of the rights of women, the falsity of Calvinism, the wickedness of commercial marriages, as in more modern writers, is likely to drive his point home by exaggeration, false proportion, some interference with the natural way of the world. The aim to recommend virtuous action by the display of “poetic justice” is open to the same objections. In both cases there results loss of both truth and effectiveness. The same may be true of both the satirical and the merely entertaining aims: in the first, the emphasis on the traits held up to ridicule runs the risk of going beyond the bounds of the normal; in the second, the curious, the marvelous, the mysterious, or the amusing may be sought for at the expense of the natural, with the result that the reader’s skepticism prevents his submitting himself to the illusion of reality necessary for the enjoyment of the pleasure or the advantages to be derived from imaginative art.

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