Existentialism is a term that philosophers of the 20th century used to refer to the belief that human thinking begins with the person. Existentialist fiction, therefore, refers to the thoughts of human existence. It can be used in philosophy and in literature. However, the exact meaning of existentialism differs and greatly depends on the individual writer (Flynn, 2006). Various elements are involved in the descriptions of existentialism, and they form the concrete analytic understanding of the various existentialist fiction writings.
Elements of Existentialist Fiction
Facticity is one of the elements that form existentialism. This refers to the fact that humans are in the state of not being. It consists of things that are out of a person’s choice, such as the birthplace of a person: it cannot be determined by himself of herself. Freedom is another element that embraces various thoughts of existentialism. This involves making choices without the influence of another party. A person is, therefore, free to choose what he or she feels is suitable for their life. Authenticity and inauthenticity are two elements that are aimed at describing the actions of man. Authentic actions prove the identity of man. Inauthentic actions are actions that force a person to act in accordance with the rules of the society and this compromises freedom.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce is a good example of existentialist fiction. Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce is among the first writers to introduce psychology to the characters in a literary work. He used cognition and perception in his writing. He uses these elements to explore the lives and realistic epiphanies (Stoicheff, 1993). The story revolves around the American civil war. The experiences of Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce in the war front greatly influenced his writings and led to his career in the journalism sector. Thus, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was an outcome of his life in the civil war and the various activities he was involved in within the same settings.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor is another story that brings forwards fiction in another angle. Her father, who died of lupus, influenced the author. Later, she was diagnosed of the same medical condition so she moved to stay with her mother. The story is based on a grandmother who is constantly complaining about her son (O'Connor, 1993).
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is yet another fiction that features the influential life of Shirley Jackson. Her lifestyle of drunkenness and smoking influenced her writing of this particular work. Her parenting style was different and rough. Many critics say that The lottery was a result of her children’ attitude, who, as many say, turned against her (Oppenheimer, 1988).