Life is unfair. Bad things happen to good people; justice is often not served. Hard work doesn't always reap proportionate rewards.
occurred to me that stories are one way we deal with this. Some of the
earliest stories I ever read were fairy tales and Aesop's fables. The
good people lived happily ever after, while the ones who were cruel or
deceptive suffered. The tortoise won the race by working hard--never
mind that the hare was born to be faster. Every event had its lesson to
As I grew older, I encountered stories in which the good
weren't always rewarded. Things got more complicated. Yet I still looked
to stories for insight and comfort. Even if the scales didn't balance
in a story, I looked for the author to signal his or her awareness that the scales didn't balance. Atticus Finch loses the big trial in To Kill a Mockingbird,
and the defendant ends up dead, but every reader knows that the book
is, in a larger sense, calling out injustice. This outcome isn't
supposed to be a happy ending.
In stories we often strive for our
better selves, the best world we can imagine. Even when we show it by
using the worst world we can imagine as a counter-example or warning (as
in dystopian literature). Characters change and grow, and even the
darkest stories usually end with some ray of hope, the hope we all need.