Iam asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 2 months ago

Is there anyone who believes that entertainment is not the primary purpose of fictional novels?

I hope I have asked this question as neutrally as possible. Many people seem to defend books and writing styles that are (in my opinion) pretty unentertaining. Are there people here who believe that entertainment is NOT the primary purpose of fictional novels? If so, what is? 

P.S. If you notice a grammatical mistake in my question, have a cookie.


With all due respect, one does not need to be a wine steward in order to express one's views about wine.

14 Answers

  • 2 months ago

    Robert Heinlein said that anyone who wrote for any reason but to make money was a damn fool.  Never said anything about entertaining

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    My point of view is that if it is obvious to a reader that the author is trying to impart a message or push their point of view on you, they have written a very bad story.  If a writer can put a message across that the reader will subconsciously absorb without realizing it WHILE BEING ENTERTAINED, then go for it.  If you can't, then you are just writing ham-fisted propaganda or preaching to the choir and nobody likes that.  Just write to entertain unless you can impart a message without blatant proselytizing.

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    I believe that the nuance is semantic; that, "entertainment" need not be a word that trivialises because, Entertainment may serve as a vehicle for enlightenment; however, that said, I do indeed consider the novel as primarily a means to educate and uplift the consciousness of the reader.

  • 2 months ago

    I disagree- I like to read "feel-bad" writers like Hubert Selby Jr., Osamu Dazai, Dostoevsky, et al because then I can feel their despair without you know...actually living some sort of louche lifestyle myself. Charles Bukowski I enjoy sort of as alcohol porn, so I don't have to drink in skid row beer parlors myself. 

    To understand what it feels like to feel less than human without destroying my own physical and mental health-that is a purpose that a novel can have. 

    I don't think the writing style of Hubert Selby Jr. is difficult at all. He had whole pages of all caps with no punctuation, maybe that might be to your taste instead of all them fancy rules. Bukowski is hardly difficult either, he was a postman who drank a lot-no snob at all

    James Ellroy and Jim Thompson are a couple of popular/genre writers who can really bring on the nihilism, maybe you might like them. Elmore Leonard is another genre writer who critics are likely to be kind to going forwards.  

    I sincerely think that if you want to develop an argument that literary fiction is inferior to popular fiction, you should go ahead and do so. I like contrarians. It's just that, "I like A better than B" is not an argument. You need to bring some critical theory to the table to make your argument. Marxists have certainly argued that if a cultural product is not accessible to the masses, then it is less than worthless. . 

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Fiction has never existed for the sole purpose of entertainment.  It has also always been used to convey ideas, as well as to present arguments.  Cheap romance novels are simply entertainment.  Johnny Got His Gun is a devastating critique of war.  Both are novels.  Fiction can move us.  It can make us change our ideas and stir us to take action.  It can bring history to life.  It can critique politics or social norms.  It doesn't just serve one simple purpose.

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    strictly for entertainment.

  • Marli
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Aside to Anonymous: Popular fiction comes in various forms. One of those forms is the "novel".  Tolstoy's "War and Peace" is a novel. Agatha Christie's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" is a novel. The first is considered "Literature". The second is considered "Popular Fiction". 

    Iam,  I read novels to be entertained.  That is my first consideration. If I don't "like it" (I.e. if I am not intrigued enough by it to read further; if I am disgusted by it's morality; if I cannot comprehend the story or the writing, or if I am bored by it), I don't continue reading unless I must.

    But I won't say that entertainment is the primary purpose of all novels. "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood was not primarily meant to be "entertaining". It had a message: look what could happen to women should an extremely right-wing (fundamentalist Christian) society control the USA. That's not "entertainment" but a warning written inside a story. So were "1984" and 'Fahrenheit 451" - two books I dislike because their messages and their stories frightened me. The authors' intentions were to arouse readers and make them consider the threats to their liberties.

    I also won't dump the masterworks of previous centuries in the trash because they are not fast paced like modern novels or not entertaining to some people. 

    1. They survived to this day whereas other novels of their times did not.

    2. They are paced to the pace of the readers of their time. I prefer Jane Austen's novels to modern Regency romances, even to the Georgette Heyer novels that I read in my girlhood though I am still her fan, because "This is the real stuff. This is how gentlewomen of the day behaved. This is the "popular fiction" they liked to read."

    3. Sometimes it (the entertainment or the meaning of the text) is better said and read slowly, to savour the flavour and to ponder the message.

    4. Just because I don't like a book doesn't mean it is not meaningful to another person. I don't like horror stories, but I might take courage and read "Dracula" or "Frankenstein" because there must be something about the stories worth reading. They are still selling - and there are annotated editions. I listened through an unabridged audiobook of "Moby Dick" because I couldn't get through the written version but I still was curious. I  found it an aural slog though tar, but I think I will listen to it again, or perhaps read it next year if we are self isolated.There was "something" about Ahab's obsession that I have to read slowly to understand the man.

  • 2 months ago

    Most fictional novels are written primarily for entertainment purposes and little more.  Sone fiction, whether novels or short stories, is written with other intended purposes (I am thinking of satires like Gulliver's Travels and pseudo-predictive fiction like 1984). 

    Most authors try to be "entertaining" in some way though (whether or not that is their primary purpose), because they want the document to be read, and let's face it, dull and boring is difficult to read and easy to abandon unfinished.  Unread is the same as "Might as well not have been written".

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    The novel genre is about more than just entertainment, 

    and should not be confused with popular fiction.

  • Andrew
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Why don't you take a moment to think about what you're asking here...

    "Is there anyone who believes that entertainment is not the primary purpose of fictional novels?"

    This is a simple yes or no question. Obviously there are indeed some people out there who believe that the primary purpose of fiction is to entertain. That doesn't mean that people read fiction solely to be entertained. That's no different from suggesting that people consume food and drink solely for sustenance. One could live on bread and water, but for those of us who derive no small degree of pleasure from food and drink, that simply wouldn't suffice. 

    Moreover, while not a grammatical error, the term "fictional novel" is redundant. All novels are inherently works of fiction. The term "fictional novel" implies that the person employing it is referring to a novel that doesn't actually exist, i.e.: one that is "made up." Considering that you seem to be wholly obsessed with plastering your silly views on books and writing all over this forum, it's rather shameful that you aren't aware that each and every novel in existence is a work of fiction. 

    There really isn't anything more to say on the matter. You continue to post the same guff worded in different ways. You're not adding anything at all to this discussion. It's abundantly clear that you couldn't care less for style or craftsmanship and that you're only concerned with being entertained. That's certainly not a crime, but it's silly to think that you're going to sway the opinions of people who have read a greater number of books than you could possibly read in 100 lifetimes and who know more about books than you could ever know if you were to live for a thousand years. 

    It's past time for you to put this nonsense to rest now. You're free to go off and enjoy whatever fluff you choose, something that's easily digestible and won't occupy too much of your time... And you can leave the discussion of fiction to people who know what fiction is. 

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