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Comparing & Contrasting Types of Fiction

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

From tales of adventure like 'The Wizard of Oz' to the gritty reality of novels like 'The Jungle', the many genres of literature all have a place. Whether to make you think or just help you escape for a while, there are as many types of fiction as there are types of writers. This lesson will cover just a few of those types.

From Realistic Fiction to Myth

While not always easy, categorizing stories helps readers to find new books to read simply because when two stories occupy the same category, they are likely to follow a similar pattern or theme. In literature, we call these categories genres. The genres that will be covered in this lesson (not an exhaustive list of genres) are adventure, myth, realistic fiction, allegory, parody, satire, and graphic novel. We'll begin by introducing the genre along with a well-known book of that type and then explaining how the book reflects the genre.

Books provide a great escape
stack of books

The Genres

Adventure

Perhaps one of the most well-known (if not the most well-known) book series in modern literature is Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. Not only is it an engaging story for children and adults alike, but Harry Potter also follows the classic adventure script, also known as The Hero's Journey, which was popularized by Joseph Campbell: the hero (Harry) crosses the threshold into the Wizarding World that had been previously unbeknownst to him. Over his next seven years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry and his friends face a series of challenges, after one of which Harry is temporarily killed and sent to a version of Heaven, known in Campbell's script as the nadir. Afterward, Harry eventually defeats his nemesis, Voldemort, and returns home, having successfully saved the wizarding world.

Myth

Some adventure novels are based on a myth, which is a story that has been passed down from generations, usually via an oral tradition. While the story may have some basis in reality, it often becomes distorted through numerous retellings. One such story is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which was written by Washington Irving in 1820. In the novel, the town of Sleepy Hollow is supposedly haunted by a ghost known as 'The Hessian', who rides headless upon a black horse. The myth of the headless horseman has appeared in countless works of fiction.

Realistic Fiction

Many works of fiction that do not include a supernatural element (unlike those above), may fall under the umbrella of realistic fiction. This is fiction that, like the name suggests, could actually happen within our reality. In the 1967 novel The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, the novel's narrator, Ponyboy, tells the story of his struggles of being part of the low-class Greasers gang while constantly being at odds with the high-class Socs gang. The novel is considered realistic fiction, not only because it does not contain supernatural elements, but because stories like this were (and still are) true to life. There always seems to be a division between groups from different socioeconomic classes, and Hinton's novel realistically explores what it's like to be on one side of that divide.

Allegory

An allegory is a story that appears outwardly to be about one topic or idea while it actually represents another. For example, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown is a story about a man who questions his religion and ultimately loses his faith. However, the story has a much larger meaning than that of just one man. Scholars have supposed that Hawthorne was actually making a large statement about Puritanism, suggesting that perhaps Goodman Brown represents the idea that individuals would be better served by questioning their blind faith in religion.

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