Assuming the correctness of the view that the novelist’s business is to give true pictures of life, we are met by the question of the value of this result. The answer to this is twofold: there is an intellectual value and an emotional value.

The amount and range of experience that comes to the ordinary man is of necessity limited. Most of us are tied to a particular locality, move in a society representing only a few of the myriad human types that exist, spend the majority of our waking hours attending to a more or less monotonous series of duties or enjoying a small variety of recreations. In such a life there is often no great range of opportunity; and the most adventurous career touches, after all, but a few points in the infinite complex of existence. But we have our imaginations, and it is to these that the artist appeals. The discriminating reader of fiction can enormously enlarge his experience of life through his acquaintance with the new tracts brought within his vision by the novelist, at second hand, it is true, but the vivid writer can often bring before our mental eyes scenes and persons whom we can realize and understand with a greater thoroughness than those we perceive directly through our senses. The materials for the understanding of men and life are thus greatly increased, and at the same time the data for the forming of those generalizations which collectively make up our philosophy.

The basis of all sound altruistic activity is sympathy, and sympathy again depends on the imagination. We act tactfully and effectively for the relief of another’s suffering when we are able imaginatively to put ourselves in that other’s place. Now, familiarity with well-described characters in fiction not only makes us acquainted with a much wider variety of human beings and enables us to understand them, but it provides us with a kind of emotional gymnastic, increasing our capacity for putting ourselves whole-heartedly and clear-mindedly in the other man’s place. Thus such familiarity is a corrective of both provincialism and selfishness, broadening the outlook and enlarging the emotional range through the development of the imagination. Here is an ethical result more effective by far than that indicated by the old formula of “exemplars,” warnings, and poetic justice, and one that implies no forcing of the truth to bring its lessons home.

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