We’re familiar with construing the short story or novel as a metaphor or allegory for, in any age, our troublesome times. Science fiction, in particular, is often viewed as a fantasy of what could be, and disguised social commentary on what is. But I haven’t come across a reference to fiction as a metaphor for the author’s personal story that, for various reasons, can’t be told. Yet I think that comes pretty close to what we’re doing when we write in a way that’s personal but not autobiographical.
I hope to have more to say about fiction as metaphor in a later post, but if the notion seems strange, consider the fairy-tale: horror stories told to very young children that they seem to adore. But, as many have observed, fairy-tales function as a metaphor for the young child’s most basic fears: harsh parenting; abandonment; sibling rivalry, as well as their wish for magical solutions. Somehow, through these stories, they can distance themselves from, and gain mastery over, the anxieties that arise from such a powerless position.
Carrot Rancher Charli Mills has blogged about fairy-tales recently, inviting us to compose 99-word stories beginning Once upon a time … I decided to be totally childish with this one, though I leave it to you to decide if there’s a deeper meaning:
He searched for friends among the children digging in the dirt. But when he wrapped himself around their stubby fingers, they squealed and shook him off.
A blackbird almost caught him as he wriggled into compost, ready to expire. Until a galaxy of red brandlings welcomed him to their world.