Is fiction the one place where the dead can live on?
They live on in our hearts, yes. But in stories they can tell their story; they can speak, be given a voice. Characters can die and come back to life or they can be dead from the beginning. These are not ghost stories, but narratives that live beyond life itself.
One of the key stories that comes to mind when I think about this is, of course, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. I half-enjoyed, half-disliked this story, but everyone knows it is told by Susie Salmon, a young teenage girl who dies at the beginning but continues to narrate the entire story in first person. There’s also If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which I haven’t yet read, and also Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
All of these are young adult novels, with a young female protagonist or character as the dead being, so perhaps that says something about this ghostly narration and the YA trend.
I’m also reminded of another one of my favourites, Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, in which the governess is questionably crazy, but to me seems to be unknowingly a ghost herself. Various films spring to mind, too – such as (*spoiler alert*) The Sixth Sense, The Others and American Beauty, all of which are brilliantly told.
Has anyone out there ever read a novel where the main character is dead or in limbo? And if so, what did you think? Is this story technique cliched or does it have worth?
*Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net