Girl With a Pearl Earring

Historical Archive and Subjective Interpretation in Fiction College

A historical novel can be understood as a collision between the factual archives of the past and the creative substance that arises from those gaps within that archive. In this sense, the writer recognizes the open spaces within the knowledge of the past and then makes a series of subjective choices as to those apertures should be filled. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus understood of history as a combination of truths and stories, speaking to the malleable character of history and the relevance of literature which simultaneously participates in and deviates from what is known about the past. Thus, in any text of the historical fiction genre, it becomes evident that writers of historical fiction are deliberate and unabashed in how they shape history to reflect their individual visions of the past. In their respective novels Girl with a Pearl Earring and Coming Through Slaughter, Tracy Chevalier and Michael Ondaatje contemplate the past in respect to historical figures who lack definitive biographical or historical narratives. Each author leaves known, historical facts about these individuals behind in order to create an authoritative yet ultimately fictional portrait of the world that these figures inhabited. Chevalier and...

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