Suspension of Disbelief

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It feels as if I have been living in a handful of different worlds at present. I just finished reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, whose writing – as an acquaintance so aptly observed – is like delving into the mind of a method actor and embodying the main character. Then, because I felt my life needed some lightness and idealistic love, I began watching the Korean rom-com Romance is a Bonus Book. (If you know anything about Korean dramas, you know that those things will just suck you in and never let you out until the series is over; and even then, you are franticly searching for your next one as soon as the first name on the credits roll.) Then, I started reading a book recommended by my father as a part of our reading challenge, Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom, which is so drastically different from the last two things I mentioned, that combined with my day-to-day life, who’s each new sun brings uncertainty, unreality, and quotidian tasks, I don’t know where I am or how I got there half the time.

In 1817, poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge introduced the term “suspension of disbelief”, the concept that the audience of a work of art – such as a book, movie, play, etc. – will suspend the judgement of certain elements of being implausible in real life.1 In other words, the “suspension of disbelief” is the audience putting “poetic faith” in the author and their ability to “transport” us into the fictional work.1 Think that feeling when you bookmark your spot in a novel and look up, only to be temporarily flummoxed as to where you are in time and space, i.e. being absorbed into a book.

This is clearly what is happening to me through two different mediums: screen and literature. But I think that this can also be applied to other elements of my life. The increase of events and attitudes I once only read about in books or saw from a distance are now infiltrating my living experience. Apart from experiencing cognitive dissonance, the defense mechanism that the majority of us deploy on a regular basis – that of disassociating ourselves from the atrocities of the world in order to function and not be a broken and battered being curled up into a ball trying to handle all the pain, inhumane acts and suffering inflicted on a minute-by-minute basis – has been broken, and all those “over there” atrocities are now happening in my sphere of reality. I can no longer suspend my disbelief in the path our societies are walking nor fantasize about a future that will most certainly not be coming into fruition.

I find myself more and more compartmentalizing my daily activities: this is what goes on at work; this is me doing the day-to-day housekeeping activities; this is me interacting with my boyfriend; now I am lost in a book; now I am engrossed in the fictional world of two publishing company workers and their love triangle; now I am in creative flow; etc., etc. Prior to March 2020, this is not how I lived my life (or at least, not how I believed that I lived my life) and now, at times, I feel lost at sea without a paddle somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle.

It is moments like this that science fiction is totally believable; I can absolutely envision a world where humans live in virtual reality program 24/7, such as the one depicted in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. I feel it is healing to allow oneself to get lost in a book or a movie or play, but we must take great care to ensure we do not find ourselves too deep in that reality escape. For the real world will not wait and shall carry on without us. I as can say from experience, if we disassociate from what is blatantly occurring around us, we will surely be blind sighted and possibly shaken so badly, we may not be able to accept and function in the world as it has become. And by that time, it may be too late.

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

1 “Suspension of Disbelief.” Wikipedia, Accessed 2 November 2022.

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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