es·cap·ism [i-skey-piz-uhm]–noun

the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc.


Above is probably the most common conception about escapism.  It is often used in the strongest criticism against fantasy.  However, when you think about it, and really study the definition, escapism applies to all realms of literature.  In nonfiction the read escapes to another reality of the past or of another person.  In fiction, to a fictitious place or series of events to meet a fictitious cast of characters.  When you think about it, all art, of any kind or medium, can be considered escapist.  In any entertaining or artistic endeavor, the participant leaves the reality of his or her time, place or experience.  But not wholely so.

I would argue that escapism is not an avoidance of reality, though it may appear so on the surface, but fleeing towards reality.  In our modern world, much about everyday life and the world at large remains subconscious, unseen and unappreciated.  Escapism is not an avoidance of reality.  If that were so, everyday we live in a state of escape.  Escapism is better seen as a clarification of reality, the evokation of reality.  It is the moment we cast off the shackles and blinders of modern society to truely see the world and study our life.

In literature, the reader is guided through a story, often through a world much like our own.  Here we finally see the wonders of our world.  By “escaping” we find a deeper understanding of our innermost thoughts and values, we rediscover the world we’ve grown accostomed to.  In life we become so inured to it all, everything becomes comonplace, everything is washed out.  In the arts, in fantasy, in escapism we can find release.  It awakens the senses from the slumber of familiarity, making the whole world new in our sight. 

Escapism is most definitely not something to be rejected.  It should be embraced as the last vestige and path to the wonders of our world. 

Thinking of this brings to mind the first Elves, born of the banks of the Cuivienen.  They awoke in awe and wonder, finding all fair and beautiful to behold.  Through literature, especially Tolkien’s works, the reader can escape and return as one reborn to the beauty of the world.


5 thoughts on “Escapism

  1. wow… that is so true. Sometimes I feel like the people in this world get so bogged down with the rituals and protocols of society, that they don’t stop and observe all of the miracles and wonder of our world. Authors like Tolkien and Lewis open our eyes to the beauty of this earth, even though they write of another. Their worlds are just a reflection of our own. Sure, they may have different races, different customs, and different histories, but their values are the same. I think it’s great that you write about this… if my opinion counts, I give you two thumbs up!

  2. Thank you! I write about what these works inspire in me, in the hopes that my insights will open new worlds of wonder to others.

  3. Feel free. I find that particular thought that much more powerful when combined with your ideas in your last post ( I’d like to think that the heighted sense of reality and the miraculous nature of the mundane (or apparently mundane) is something we all truly yearn for in life. Too often we pass through life, turning the blind eye to all the wonders around us.

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