The lines between real and unreal in fictional worlds


I’ve been interested in the idea of what’s real and not real inside a fictional world.

There are some stories where the main character has dissociative identity disorder—books like Fight Club or Piranesi—where the lines between real and unreal are blurred.

As readers, we don’t know what is ‘real’ within the world, and what is a figment of the fictional narrator’s imagination.

In these titles, the narrator lives within a world constructed by their own mind, with only hints at the reality beneath.

Stories like this are often haunting and disturbing. And it’s satisfying as a reader when the penny drops and you understand what’s ‘really’ going on.

And a monumental penny has just dropped for me…

This may have been the case in one of the most famous fantasy series around.

I’m now convinced that within the fictional world of Harry Potter, Harry never left his abusive aunt and uncle.

Instead, he remained imprisoned under the stairs, his mind constructing a reality as a way to cope with the trauma.

There was no magic, no Hogwarts, no Voldermort.

It’s a tale of a traumatised boy with dissociative identity disorder.

Does this make sense? Am I off the mark here? Let me know what you think.

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