Terror & Horror's Relationship to Fiction
opens wide the eyes and mouth, the heart beats violently,
the breath is quick and short, gives the countenance an air
of wildness, covers it with deadly paleness, draws back the
elbows parallel with the sides, lifts up the open hands, with
fingers spread, at some distance before it. The body seems
shrinking from danger. The heart beats violently, the breath
is quick and short, and the whole body is thrown into a general
tremor.” A quote from the book, Dialogue for Schools
by Increase Cook, published in 1813.
begin let’s first define the above synonyms to see
if they really relate to one another.
definition of FEAR: An unpleasant emotion caused by the
belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to
cause pain, or a threat.
definition of TERROR: Extreme fear of violence or threats
of violence used for intimidation or coercion.
definition of HORROR: An intense, painful feeling of repugnance,
shock and fear.
the surface FEAR, TERROR & HORROR seem synonyms, but not
true. FEAR alerts the mind that something is going to happen.
TERROR awakens the power of the mind, and HORROR, however,
contracts, freezes and tries to annihilate FEAR and TERROR
majority of people read and watch many things involving fiction
and get “Make- Believe” emotional
responses and attachments to the characters in what they are
reading and watching (e.g., “The Living Dead”
series). This presents proof that there is something quite
incoherent in one’s emotional responses: A feeling for
things that they know don’t exist, regardless of what
is judged to be true. (For more information on this “make-believe”
theory examine Philosopher Colin Radford’s 1975, essay
on the “Paradox of Fiction”.
Walton, the Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan
presents his theory called the “Pretend Theory”.
This theory is a bit fool hearty, to put it mildly, because
it make a person, in some cases pretend to have a violent
emotional response. Example: A person while watching a horror
movie knows in reality that they aren’t in harm’s
way or danger. But, the person’s mind invents the feeling
that there is a risk of danger which causes a precondition
for fear. So, a person only mentally pretends that they are
afraid when something shocking happens.
theory in the case of the three synonyms is the “Illusion
Theory” which holds that readers or visional
audiences are subject to a partial illusion when they are
absorbed in a story. This account of an emotional response
is because the eyes see a monster, (e.g., Frankenstein) on
a screen and hear people talking about it as if it existed.
They mentally entered into the movie and become part of the
there is another emotional response theory, namely the “Counterpart
Theory” which is a bit superior to the other
three theories because we sometimes actually associate fictional
characters with real-life people and events. A person under
the influence of this emotional response can begin to act
out or create in real life similar situations.
what is an “emotional response”.
It is a reaction to a particular intrapsychic feeling or feelings,
accompanied by physiological changes that may or may not be
outwardly manifested but that motivate or precipitate some
action or behavioral response.
are complex and according to some theories are a state of
feeling that results in physical and psychological changes
that influence our behavior. Emotions are often the driving
force behind motivations of positive or negative experiences
which could curiously prompt the following question.
it possible that we, humans, consume fiction in all its art
forms for the reason that in fact, WE NEED IT? Perhaps emotional
responses are quite an important part of our everyday lives
and our perception of reality. Yet, it could be possible that
too much fictional emotional responses could result in the
danger that emotional responses about fiction may become confused
with emotional responses about reality and perhaps cause a
global danger namely TERRORISM?
go softly into the night. mgf