A Glimpse of Nonsense Literature
Nonsense literature is a genre that tells about illogical, magical, and nonsensical stories. Its literary work is a combination of madness, creativity, intelligence and cultural knowledge. Its language usually contains either irony or satire as an approach of saying the truth. It usually says something but hides a certain meaning behind it. The meaning may be a critic, delineation, or provocation towards occurrences that happen in real life. In a further study, they can be deconstructed as a source of moral lessons that gives values to reality. Those moral lessons teach the audience to do or not to do things, to follow or unfollow certain concepts, or to like or unlike people.
The genre first appeared in 1800s. Many studies about the genre were then attempted after many related works started to show its existence. In 1900, G.K Chesterton said that the best proof of adventurous growth in the nineteenth century is “with all respect for its portentous science and philosophy that it was to be found in the rhymes of Mr Edward Lear and the literature of nonsense” and that “this was the literature of the future.” (https:// www.york.ac.uk/english/undergraduate/ courses/modules/module-catalogue/specia l-modules/literature-of-nonsense)
Nonsense literature has reached its glory in the twentieth century. Nonsense literary works nowadays do not only reflect advanced ironical and satirical skill, but also modern mankind’s intelligence with technology as the central. In the past, its works usually played around conservative society and mostly predicted about how the future will be as reflected on Dr.Seuss’ The Lorax (1971). Nowadays, they mostly talk about the future, and not only predict it but they also try to invent solutions to overcome the crisis. There are hundreds of examples for modern nonsense works. The famous ones are such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (2008) and Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011). They are nonsense books adopted into movies, in which the story criticizes the society and builds an imaginative world as an escape from reality.
Back to the old days, there were classic nonsense literary works that can be said as the trigger to the genre. The most talked about work of all time is Carroll’s children book entitled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).
Just like any other literary work, nonsense literature has intrinsic elements that form the work into an independent story. Out of all the intrinsic elements, here are its three major elements:
According to Stanton (1964:14), the plot of a story is its entire sequence of events, which is usually limited to include only casual linked events and cannot be omitted without breaking the line of action. These events include physical occurrences, such as the crashing of McCandless’ Datsun in the Mojave Desert in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (1996:27), and mental occurrences such as the slight change of thought Elektra had in Dee Lestari’s Petir (2004:84). These events, then, lead the other upcoming events in the future that cannot be avoided unless deliberately. If a certain event did not happen like how it happened, then what happens now as its effect would probably be a different story. If there is an event that does not seem to be linked, then it is considered irrelevant to the whole event.
There are two important elements of plot: conflict and climax. According to Roberts (1965:94-95), a conflict is the opposition of two people or a group of people, which is called as (1) external conflict. Their conflict may take the shape of anger, hatred, envy, gossip, decisions, actions, etc. It can also be abstract and take place in the mind of a character, namely called as (2) internal conflict. A difficult or impossible choice and a crash of ideas or opinions are a natural conflict for an individual person. When there is a conflict, then there must be climax, too. The climax of a story is the moment at which the conflict is most intense and at which its outcome becomes inevitable (Stanton, 1964:16).
According to its type, plot is divided into four (http://www2.nkfust.edu.tw/~emchen/CLit/study_elements.html). (1) A dramatic or progressive plot is a chronological structure which establishes the setting and conflict. It then follows the rising action through to a climax, and in the end, concludes with a denouement that is also called as resolution. (2) An episodic plot is also a chronological structure, however it consists of a sequence of loosely related incidents tied together by a common theme and/or characters. (3) In a parallel plot, the writer weaves two or more dramatic plots, which are usually linked by a common character and a similar theme. (4) A flashback structure conveys information about events that occurred earlier. It permits authors to begin the story in the midst of the action but later fill in the background for full understanding of the present events.
A character is a verbal representation of a human being as presented to us by authors through the depiction of actions, conversations, descriptions, reactions, inner thoughts and reflections, and also through the author’s own interpretive commentary (Roberts, 1964:66). In nonsense literature, usually the characters are highly imaginative, and are sometimes depicted physically unique and do creatively uncommon things. They can be humans or animals given a developed characterization for each of them. Their characterization sometimes does not reflect their kind. Humans, for example, are given the power of a super hero, and animals are given the ability to speak like humans.
There are several ways to reveal characters and their characterization disclosed by the author (Roberts, 1964:68-69). First, we need to see the actions by which the characters reveal their qualities such as naiveté, weakness, a scheming personality, inner conflict, or other growth change. Second, the author’s descriptions also tell us about characters. Usually the descriptions are in the narration. Third, it is important to take a close notice on what characters say, either dramatic statements or thoughts, and also on what characters say about the other characters. Lastly, the author as a story teller or/and observer may present judgement towards characters. In this way, the author can influence the readers to take side or not to take side of a character.
According to characterizations, characters are developed into two that are flat characters and round characters (Perrine & R. ARP, 1959:68-69). (1) Flat characters, that is usually also called as stock characters, are stereotyped figures who have occurred so often in fiction that their nature is immediately known. These characters usually characterized by one or two traits and can be summed up in one sentence. (2) Round characters are complex and many sided. They are usually given more than one characterization, appear as antagonist or protagonist, and play a role as a major character showing up in almost every scene.
Setting is the natural, manufactured, political, cultural, and temporal environment, including everything that characters know and own. As characters speak with each other, they veal the degree to which they share the customs and ideas of their time (Roberts, 1965:108). It is obvious that characters are involved with their surroundings since the two reflect and give impacts on each other. Usually setting gives an image on characters, either good or bad, and sometimes also includes people in the background (e.g. Batak people in Dee Lestari’s Gelombang, 2015). In many stories, the setting evokes a definite emotional tone or mood that surrounds the character (Stanton, 1964:19). In the context of nonsense literature, setting is considered important for building mood. The setting has to balance the characters and plot especially in the effort of building an imaginative environment.
There are elements that build setting in a literary work according to Holman (1985:413): (1) the actual geographical location, including its topography, scenery, and such physical arrangements as the location of the things in a room; (2) the occupations and daily manner of living of the characters; (3) the time or period in which the action takes place; and (4) the general environment of the characters.