Themes in Fiction #16 – Desire to Escape

Image by Phil Snyder

Image by Phil Snyder

“Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.” ~ Lemony Snicket



Most characters have something wrong in their lives. Stories wouldn’t be very exciting if that wasn’t the case – characters need internal and external conflict to drive their stories and make them interesting to read about. Often this is in the form of something they need to escape. Be that a terrible situation in their home lives or a destiny they feel they can’t control.


Bitterblue by Kristin Cashorebitterblue

The titular character, Bitterblue, is queen of the kingdom of Monsea. Her days are spent in meetings with advisors. Though she loves her city and her people, she’s never really had the opportunity to venture outside of her castle’s walls.

Bitterblue desires escape from the trappings of being queen – not even in a negative way: she desires to leave the castle and get to know her city, to find out what she can do to help her people heal from the harm inflicted on them in the past.

To this end she dresses as ‘Sparks’ and is able to communicate with the townspeople without the restriction of being queen, gaining the trust and friendship of some local trouble makers. She escapes from her own position and role in order to gain freedom.

The Weight of Water by Penelope Evansthe weight of water

After a tragedy shakes the lives of Sara and Tom, the couple move away from the home that now haunts Tom, into the countryside to start afresh.

Tom is trying to escape his memories and the past that traumatised him, running from his home to a new one. But he finds it isn’t as easy as that, and while Sara adjusts to the new house and new location, Tom doesn’t find his escape from the past just by a change of scenery.

Escape from the Everyday

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniukfight club

In the previous examples, the characters are all escaping from exceptional circumstances. But some characters are looking to escape the daily humdrum of their boring lives.

The Narrator of Fight Club goes to extreme lengths to escape the mediocrity of his life, creating the titular club – indulging his most base impulses to fight and brawl with other men. Fight Club is such a powerful story because it is utterly believable that men feeling trapped might seek their escape through wanton violence and creation of chaos.


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