Date of Award

Spring 1981

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Henry Burgess

Second Advisor

Rev. Michael Driscoll

Third Advisor

Sister Miriam Clare Roesler

Abstract

The imagination. This mystery of the mental process is no stranger to us, yet, still speculated upon, it remains unexplained. Just as a spider spins its web out of itself, man constructs a microcosm out of his desires. Man shapes desires into reality, while reality itself is obliterated. For feasible purposes, man’s imagination can become the exclusive world to matter. Encapsulated within himself, man is able to feel a reassuring omnipotence from his imagination, something the "real world" often refuses. The imagination is the highest attribute of a human being. By no other means can we, at one moment, be god-like, and at another, feel self-pity. In continual usage, the imagination, like any personal characteristic, varies in the degree each individual possesses it. Common everyday utilization of the imagination is perhaps taken for granted because it is a ceaseless activity. When we listen to someone tell of his experiences, we try to envision the situation in our head as each detail is added. We engage our limitless imagination in times of solitude by perhaps creating someone with whom to communicate, or perhaps we revive within the mind a picture of a friend or a good time and smile at the memory. Social acting demands our imagination when we have to prepare ourselves for a temporary role. The teacher must imagine what will interest and benefit the student, the merchant must speculate on the needs of his customers, and parents encourage, through their own imagination, children to play imaginatively, creatively and spontaneously.

Sensitive to the imagination as a constructive utensil, the writer, artist, scientist, and. inventor have been labeled with the lingering concept of the creative person paying the price by mental aberration. The Romantic and 19th Century artist was referred to as "mad" — not that he was mentally ill or insane, but implying that he was unconventional, inspired, and idiosyncratic. Because creativity often must reject the established order, the creative person may appear eccentric, rebellious, even "crazy." However, the 19th Century scientist, mathematician, politician, inventor, engineer, and industrial leader, whose work was "realistic" material progress, escaped this stigma of "madness." The imagination may remain within one's head without the urge to create concrete things with it, or it can merge with knowledge and result in a work of art, a book, or the greatest medical breakthrough. The imagination likens itself to a perpetual movie-screen within the mind, where we are sole projector of ourself as actor, producer, and director; unlike the theatre's stage, our stage has no limits. While physical reality is bounded by physical laws, formulas, and theories, it too is capable of being limitless, since it demands the addition of knowledge with our imagination in overcoming these boundaries. Our limitations are what we allow them to be. In Fragile Fantasy, I present three creative short stories in which the characters commonly share the employment of the imagination. The power of the imagination is illustrated as a fragile fantasy within each character. For all three personas, the fantasy they dwell in acts as a tool for survival, yet like any fragile object, it can shatter.

In "Catering Service," the character allows us to see what happens when reality fails and leaves you vacant, but you know the mind's motel will always take you in. Besides combating reality, Deidre, the story's main character, is a psychologically unbalanced writer, who comes to accept her created character as reality. To glean insight and strengthen Deidre's dimension as a character, I biographically researched writers who could not endure "reality,” such as Emily Dickinson, Syivia Plath, and Virginia Wolfe. Sylvia Plath said she wrote only because there was a voice within her that would not be still; from this, and other concepts, "Catering Service" was developed. "Sanctuary" focuses upon an elderly lady who has had a stroke and is now imprisoned by this reality. Her mind, however, is able to escape this imprisonment and freely imagines or remembers people, places or situations which make her life bearable. In the third story, "Made With 100% Purely Artificial Ingredients!," the character questions the borderline between reality and artificiality which translates to normalacy and insanity. Because the character has become fully aware of reality for what it is, in trying to express it, is labeled insane. "Catering Service" and "Made With 100% Purely Artificial Ingredients!" represent imagination at its extreme. "Sanctuary" probes into the most common occurence of the imagination; yet the common occurence aspect of the imagination is visible in all three stories. Reality can be very cruel; those who haven’t the strength to stand up to it must rely upon the inner reality they themselves have the power to create, and this is what saves them, that is, for the time being. They create a fragile fantasy within the mind, and it is fragile indeed. The power of the imagination can elevate a person, or, destroy one. To possess such omnipotent control, yet also to he helpless is the strength and shattering weakness of fragile fantasies.

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