Is it wrong for me to feel completely refreshed after reading a depressing novel, like 1984 by George Orwell, or The Road by Cormac McCarthy? It’s as if the depressing tune to these novels seem to wipe away the residue left of happier novels, like washing a shower head by rinsing it in lime and salt. By residue, i mean like lingering feelings about the books, or feelings about (or even for) the fictional characters. Depressing novels refresh you by washing you over with sadness. The mind doesn’t bothering holding onto sad memories if they’re fictional and discards the sad stuff along with all the other feelings related to fiction.
However, depressing novels can only be refreshing under certain circumstances. One is that you cannot get too attached to any of the characters. The characters have to be realistic, like in the above examples, they cannot be the kind of characters that you fantasize about, you know, the kinds that couldn’t exist in reality. Unrealistic characters seem unrealistic because their personality matches real life people
Let me explain this. A person keeps their inner feelings in their mind, only revealing them to people they hang around with often. They can be the straight man outside, but when they are with people they are comfortable with more fun and outward traits of them reveal themselves. “Unrealistic” characters are the same only inside out. Their fun and outward personalities are never hidden because the reader is given an almost complete look into their personalities. Examples of such Characters include cartoon characters, anime characters, or an example from a more adult book, King Macbeth from Shakespeare’s Macbeth who we are given an inside look into his personality.
If any characters are treated this way in a depressing novel the reader is in danger of becoming attached to the character because the character resembles a person the reader is close to. Because of the in depth knowledge of the character’s personality, the reader’s mind is as familiar with the fictional character as one of their close comrades. Therefore the brain sorts them into the same category in terms of relationship as a close friend. If the book is a depressing one it usually means that something unfortunate will befall said person. I said earlier that the brain easily lets go of fictional sad feelings, but because your mind sees the character as a close friend, any sad fate for the character will be remembered.
I have an example. It isn’t a novel but otherwise it fits the description. A while back I was reading the Neon Genesis Evangelion Manga. Anime fans will understand my sadness. This particular sadness did wash away the remnants of feelings for all the previous books I read recently, but the new sadness did not wash away for months. The reason was because I had become attached to a particular character in the series. I’m not going to say who it is but she had blue hair(the main character wasn’t half bad either).
I couldn’t feel the same refreshing after effect that usually comes with reading a sad novel. To me it was if the tragedies in the story had affected someone I was close to because that was the category my mind had sorted them into.