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What Is History And What Is Fiction?

852 words - 4 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

As Dr Inga Clendinnen, a Melbourne historian, states, “We cannot post ourselves, back in time. People really did think differently then...How much ‘culture’ do we really share with British people of 200 years ago? Are we seduced into an illusion of understanding through the accident of a shared language?” Ultimately, we can never truly know what has happened in the past, because all events have been written according to the perspective of the person. When trying to create fiction of history, these stories are arguably written based upon other stories, and cannot be absolute truth or fact. However, when using historic events to help create a novel, perhaps this can be accepted.
A novel, in the end, is a story by which a writer has imagined either from roots in the real world, or in a fantastical world. The story of Governor Arthur Phillip’s encounter with an Aboriginal man inspired Kate Grenville to write her novel, “The Secret River” - a story regarding the colonisation of Australia and Aboriginal dispossession. One scene in the novel has some historians fuming over Grenville’s disregard for tampering with the events of the past.
What was originally “three slight slaps” delivered by Governor Philip to an Aboriginal man because he had been caught stealing a spade, had evolved into on-going “slaps”, with the connotation that it was implied with force. Not only did she alter this segment of the...

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