Watched an entertaining rerun of A CHRISTMAS CAROL last night on TV and it made me think about writers and entertainment and why we all enjoy it.
Dickens wrote "for the money" of course, doing a chapter a week for newspaper publication, that only got collected into "novels" afterward. He didn't expect his work to last two and a half centuries, or change the world, but it did. Though he wrote about characters who were poor, his work was read, absorbed, and admired by the rich and powerful, who identified with his protagonists.
When Dickens began to write, sweatshops hired children who were contributing breadwinners or often "on their own" from age seven or eight. There were no social services, or state help, but by the end of his career, those same upper classes who read his fiction had voted to change the deplorable social conditions he depicted so vividly. Laws against child labor had been passed. A school system for the lower classes was established. Life for the poor got better in England, because what Dickens had written touched the hearts and minds of the statesmen who made new laws there.
Dickens considered himself an entertainer at best. Someone to provide a few hours of escape. Yet he lived to change the world and he did it writing fiction.
Non-fiction gives us all information we may need, but fiction involves the reader's emotions and makes him or her care, not only about the characters involved in the story, but about issues that need to be changed.
When people say to you, as someone said to me recently, "Oh, you just write fiction. I never read that," implying by their tone of voice that reading fiction is a worthless pastime, remember Dickens and the social changes brought about in England by his work.
He blessed us every one.