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Self-Delusion in Literature

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Evie Wallace

on 12 September 2013

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Transcript of Self-Delusion in Literature

The French Philosopher, Voltaire, said:
“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”

Why would we delude ourselves?
In Part 3 of Life of Pi, Pi tells the japanese investigators a second story in which the animals in fact represent humans, specifically, animal instincts and the will to survive.
Self-Delusion in Society
Self-delusion is the act or state of deceiving or deluding oneself, and as Voltaire explains, the human mind will often deceive itself in order to believe what it wants to believe.
Similarly in Shutter Island, Andrew Laeddis deludes himself into believing he is still a U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, because he is unable to cope with his horrible reality where he killed his wife.
In Pan’s Labyrinth, Ofelia regresses into her mind and creates a fantasy world in an attempt to make sense of the unjust and barbarous world around her.
Further examples of self-delusion
In Fight Club, Jack mentally projects the person he wishes he could be, Tyler Durden, who is idealistic and has little regard for any moral or ethical consequences of his actions.

This self-delusion contrasts with the characters in the previous three texts, as for them, self-delusion was an escape rather than a haunting subconscious action.
The children in Janet Frame's short story, Swans, initially believe their parents will protect them from everything.

As the story progresses, Fay questions “What if there is no sea either and no nothing,” suggesting that even children are becoming privy to the falsity of living and the loss of identity as we move into adulthood.
Body Image
Pi, Andrew Laeddis and Ofelia deluded themselves in order to survive. If you were in their situation, would you?

At all times throughout their journeys, imagination
superseded reality, and in Ofelia’s case, even as she lay dying, her imagination (and therefore self-delusion) is what she chose to dominate her mind.
Can Self-Delusion be a metaphor for segments of society?
Ofelia is placed in front of monstrous creatures so we as viewers become aware of the child innocence that can be lost, and her regression into the fantasy world becomes a metaphor for the fact that sometimes even the most gruesome of creatures are easier to face than the people that govern our society.
What is it?
Why would people do it?
How do we delude ourselves today?
Representing a segment of society
Self-Delusion: Dreaming
In a dream, our mind creates and perceives our world simultaneously.

Dreams – they feel real while we’re in them, its only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange.

"Building a dream from your memory is the easiest way to lose your grasp on what's real and what is a dream."
The traditional model of self-delusion, however, has been thought to raise two paradoxes:

The ‘static’ paradox: How can a person simultaneously hold contradictory beliefs?

The ‘dynamic’ paradox. How can a person intend to deceive herself without rendering her intentions ineffective?
(Mele 1987a; 2001)

Suspension of Disbelief
"Death and horror are certainly shown to be integral elements in the magic realm...however only humans are shown to be cruel" -Jacob Hodgen
We are continuously faced with the decision of deception versus reality, and the question of what is better.

We can see there is always more than one way to view reality, and within our choice of view can rest the possibility of greater happiness and a better life.
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