What Is History and What Is Fiction?

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  • Date Submitted: 01/29/2010 01:34 AM
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What Is History and What Is Fiction?

How do Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River and Simon Schama’s work Dead Certainties- the Parkman murder raise issues about the division between what it fiction and history?
It is difficult to draw a definite line between what history is and what fiction is. Some may argue that all history is fiction, and that individual perspectives and experiences can alter the recording of a historical event; thus creating fiction, or altering the truth. Some may argue that there is a fine line between history and fiction, and that “recreating” a story in order to try to discover more about the past should not be allowed. These issues are explored through Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River and Simon Schama’s work Dead Certainties- the Parkman murder.

Creating a story in order to try and understand the past may be a conclusion that some historians may be willing to accept. When emotionally involved within a character’s story, some hidden emotions/feelings may be revealed, that otherwise would not have. However, is this really the definite voice of those who have lived in our past, or the writer’s imagination?
Simon Schama’s work Dead Certainties- the Parkman murder is where some historians may claim that Schama has definitely crossed the line. In order to attempt to resolve the Parkman murder, Schama has written a novel, or in his case, an account, of what happened on November 23rd, 1849. When the present “facts” failed to reveal, perhaps, the most important pieces of information, for example, what was actually discussed between Dr. Webster and George Parker the day he went missing, Schama used from arduously collecting information about each man/character to picture what could have potentially happened, and in his case what really did. Perhaps this method is appropriate to help historians try to recapture the mindset of the people at the time, and create that sort of “ambience” once again, in order to discover some hidden emotions/meanings that have otherwise...
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