The basic assumptions underlying this book are, that man is an animal needing by nature to have a purpose or purposes in view, and that what he takes as his ultimate purpose has an intimate relationship with what he does and becomes, that is, with his nature as a whole. The first assumption is subject to empirical challenge, though the room for doubt seems small: people who can envisage no short-term or long-term purpose are more often found inside psychiatric hospitals than outside. But the second assumption is contentious, and one of my aims here is to throw some light on it by examining at length four relevant works of fiction. The fictions selected all explore profoundly questions concerning human purposes and what happens to men who give various answers to those questions. But different forms of fiction have interestingly different ways of relating human purposes to various obstructions, external and internal — the recalcitrance of the brute world to human will, and the confusion of purpose with fantasy. So what is also involved is a discussion of how fictional form can embody, shape, refine conceptions of human purpose, which I hope will provide some insight into certain general aspects of fictional technique.
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- 2.Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (1966)p. 4.Google Scholar