‘Truth Within a Fable’? Fiction, Truth and Post-Truth

  • Stuart Sim


Fiction could be seen as a form of post-truth in that it wants to persuade us to treat the narrative it presents as if it were real. That has led to criticism down the ages, and authors have often felt the need to defend themselves of the charge of misleading the public. John Bunyan, for example, answered critics of The Pilgrim’s Progress by asserting that it contained ‘Truth within a Fable’, and this chapter weighs up the arguments for this notion. It claims that fiction generally has good intentions, and that this differentiates it from the divisive tactics of post-truthers on the far right politically. Richard Rorty’s defence of literature as a source of useful knowledge that can affect our moral development, provides useful support for Bunyan’s view, from a philosopher who takes a very pragmatic approach to truth and the issue of relativism.


  1. Benjamin, Walter, Understanding Brecht [1966], trans. Anna Bostock, London: NLB, 1973.Google Scholar
  2. Brecht, Bertolt, Mother Courage and Her Children: A Chronicle of the Thirty Years War [1941], trans. Eric Bentley, London: Methuen, 1962.Google Scholar
  3. Bunyan, John, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners [1666], ed. W.R. Owens, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.Google Scholar
  4. ———, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Parts One and Two [1678, 1684], ed. W.R. Owens, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  5. Defoe, Daniel, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders [1722], ed. G.A. Starr, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  6. ———, Roxana: Or, The Fortunate Mistress [1724], ed. John Mullan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  7. Dostoevsky, Fyodor, Crime and Punishment [1866], trans. Oliver Ready, London: Penguin, 2014.Google Scholar
  8. Fielding, Henry, The History of Tom Jones [1749], ed. R.P.C. Mutter, London: Penguin, 1985.Google Scholar
  9. Hogg, James, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner [1824], ed. John Carey, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  10. Rorty, Richard, Consequences of Pragmatism (Essays: 1972–1980), Brighton: Harvester, 1982.Google Scholar
  11. ———, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart Sim
    • 1
  1. 1.Newcastle upon TyneUK

Personalised recommendations