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A Work In Context – The Paradigm

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A paradigm has been described as “A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them.”

Each writer comes to their work with a certain paradigm at work. Each writer will write with a set of assumptions about the world around them, they will subconsciously include concepts and values they find imperative. In the broadest perspective possible, each writer will express their worldview in some form or fashion through what they write. This may not happen in every piece, however, when the entire body of work is evaluated carefully it becomes clear what the author truly believes to be true, noble, and right.

In the realm of writing, this concept is known as Context. This means that the author of any work lodges certain absolutes in virtually all areas of story construction. The story may include the writer’s philosophy of politics or their view of religion.

A strong example of this was The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. While the story is fictional, Mr. Brown confirms that he believes much of what he wrote to be true. Many have appreciated the storytelling ability of Dan Brown, but have a hard time accepting the context and assumptions of his work.

As a writer of faith, it is quite likely the core values you possess will show up in ways both intentional and unplanned. J.R.R. Tolkien made a point of saying that his faith was not the intended context of his storytelling. Yet, the pages of the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filled with Judeo-Christian values and attributions to the power and sacrifice of God, which is consistent with his personal faith. I would argue that this fiction writer could not write something that denied his internal paradigm.

Most fiction writers are not trying to proselytize, they simply present a story and in the process, their belief system leaks onto the pages. It’s to be expected.

From a historical perspective, a look at the world event at the time a classic literary work was published can assist us in learning the context of the work and the paradigm of the author.

World events and our personal responses are a unique combination that affects the context of our writing. If we are struggling with certain local, regional, national, or even global issues, we will likely find the context of our circumstances, coupled with our beliefs, will alter our writing and the assumptions we include.

For a serious student of literature, an understanding of context can help decode a sense of the angst or joy the author was experiencing when writing their classic.

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