How morality and transgression is addressed in a work of contemporary fiction
The treatment of morality and transgression in contemporary fiction can be viewed through different perspectives. The morality of fiction is produced out of the world the piece is situated in, which is completely the creation of the author/creator. This creation, in retrospect, is the interpretation of the society the author/creator resides in.
Morals are basic rules that govern a person’s behaviour. However the morality that the story holds in itself is an overarching belief the author is trying to present. The two aspects can align, however, they are separate entities.
When we take a fictional piece like “American Psycho” into consideration, we witness how the graphic and gory initiations in the protagonist’s head is justified.
The severe killings by Patrick Bateman (which we find out towards the end were all of his vivid fantasies and not real incidents), the uncanny and disturbing sexual performances and the inner monologue of Bateman are all showcased through the point of view of the protagonist, which allows the author to structure the whole story in a way that the viewer (not agreeing with his fundamental ethics and morals) starts to understand him (we truly believe that his psychopathic tendencies are due to his dysfunctional brain.)
In some cases, this justification develops into a strange liking for the character(s), like in the case of Sardar Khan or Faisal Khan in the movie “Gangs Of Wasseypur”. In retrospect, when we look at the fiction from an Indian context, the ethicality of the film deviates majorly from that of the morality of the society the film is based on or situates itself in yet the viewer’s belief evolves as the movie progresses. The viewer evolves and grows along with the plot, the story and the characters which leads to an emotional attachment, overpowering the moral compass.
The way morality and transgression is dealt with in contemporary fiction has shades of grey, with nothing being right or wrong. The fiction of today allows the viewer or reader to interact with the fiction, allowing them to make their own choices in terms of their belief, making conscious judgements as they proceed.
A transgression is what keeps the story going (for me). If we look at The Bible (which I am aware doesn’t fit in the “contemporary fiction” category but lets look at it only for reference) for instance, Adam and Eve went against the word of god, when he warns them not to eat the apple. Their rebellion against god is what transgressive fiction really goes for, in my opinion. It doesn’t always need to have a negative connotation attached to it just because you are going against the “LAW”.
When we talk about something like “V for Vendetta” (movie), the protagonist (“V”) is shown to be rebelling against the confines of the fascist governmental regime he is stuck in. He embodies within himself the aftermath of the cruelty (inflicted by the political power) incurred upon him. This allows the viewer to accept and eventually root for him, hoping for the downfall of the government, justifying the killings performed by him.
The protagonists of transgressive fiction are quite often looking to break out of their situation because the society restricts them so much and they feel outraged because of what has occurred because of that. The way stories deal with transgression allows the reader or the viewer to have moment(s) of self realisation within their own lives. It then becomes an imperative part of the fiction itself.
However, when we look at something like “A Clockwork Orange”, we find that transgression is actually the reason of their downfall so most of the times, the fiction in question is in fact raising a point.
It doesn’t always offer an answer because usually the things that they (author) try to portray and comprehend (through the formative elements of the fiction) are philosophical ideologies, oftentimes questioning the ethical and moral aspect of the hierarchical society and the conventional codes of conduct laid down by authoritative figures. This builds a space for the audience/reader to enquire their dynamics with the community they reside in- mostly, which turns out to be incomprehensible to the masses.
I personally believe the higher pursuit of something magnificent, instead of the monotony of day to day life is more respectable than being a part of the crowd, believing the narratives fed to you. The protagonists are trying to find themselves in the society because they are isolated and alienated from the society. It is the reason they feel like breaking out and making their own “society”, their own norms and rules, their own fundamentals morals.