They say the best way to learn is from experience, and perhaps they’re right. However, there are only so many experiences an individual may come across in their course of life, does that mean they should be blind to the other lessons that life has to offer? Of course not! The solution comes in the form of reading, and thus learning through the experiences of others. While one’s own personal experience may be the best teacher, it often takes a lifetime to truly learn from it. Personal experience should definitely be sought out, but it can also be supplement with knowledge from the experience of others. Fictional characters in books allow us to put ourselves into situations we might never actually experience! This also provides us with lessons that the authors have put years of thought into. Thus, even fiction books can offer real life lessons.
Here are 3 works of fiction that tackle fear, but beware! There are spoilers ahead!
1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini:
You can imagine the role fear has to play in a story that takes place in mid-1970s Afghanistan amid the soviet invasion. The book follows our main character, Amir, throughout the events of his life. It is immediately made clear that Amir is a bit of a coward. He often depends on the loyalty of his valiant servant and friend Hassan, as he himself succumbs to his fears time and time again. We see the effect this inability to face his fears has on Amir’s life when he finds Hassan is in dire need of his help. Fear makes Amir betray his best friend, changing their relationship and their lives forever.
Throughout the rest of the book Amir suffers with guilt and the consequences of his cowardice without any hope of rectifying his mistakes. Years down the road, however, Amir is given the chance of redemption at the cost of facing fears he’s never imagined. This time Amir manages to find his courage and begin to make things right.
2. Divergent by Veronica Roth:
Divergent takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where society has been divided into 5 factions. Each faction is separated by the ideal human virtue that they believe leads to peace. Beatrice Prior was born into the Abnegation faction which believes in the power of selflessness. When Beatrice turns 16, she’s given the chance to choose a faction according to her own beliefs. Tired of bowing before others, she chooses the faction that prioritizes bravery – the Dauntless. Here she begins a new life, adopting the name Tris and facing and overcoming each of her fears until she is perfect – that is, fearless.
She soon begins to question the very definition of what bravery truly is. Is courage having the strength to fight someone? Or is it courage to step up to protect someone instead? She learns that fear isn’t something that can be completely left behind. Rather, it is something that must be overcome again and again. And bravery is not having fewer fears but being able to face them whenever vital. Through this, she learns to find value in what she calls “ordinary acts of bravery”.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:
Published in 1986, the Handmaids Tale is narrated by Offred, a woman who lives in a dystopian America, renamed the Republic of Gilead, overthrown by a theocratic government called the Sons of Jacob. In this world women have been overpowered and stripped of all rights. Offred is one of the few fertile women left, and is forced to become a “walking womb” for the powerful men of the patriarchy in order to restore the human race.
Fear is the main source of control in Gilead. Along with the rest of the women like her, Offred is constantly crippled with it. Offred in particular is afraid of anyone looking at her when she goes to the market, making the wrong move in public and even in private, the hateful gaze of her Commander’s wife, and the punishments for lack of obedience when she was training, to name a few. Offred and her fellow handmaids have no information about where their loved ones are located, what their government is doing, or the world in general. They do not ask for fear of being denounced. Thus shrouding their world in constant anxiety.
The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of women in suppression in a society that values them only for their ability to conceive, and the struggles by which some of these women daringly attempt to gain individuality and independence. While still oblivious to the machinations moving the events in her life by the end of the novel, Offred learns to strip herself of fear and faces her uncertain future head-on.