Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Arson and Agony Public Deposited

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  • There’s comfort in conformity, freedom in rebellion, but these ideas don’t necessarily need to be completely distinct from one another; they can exist simultaneously in the same story, the same person. Consider science-fiction, dystopian, or fantasy genres: there’s a mixture of both conformity and rebellion, but it’s usually set up as a battle of wills. Which one will win? Will characters fall deeper into controlling structures or release themselves from them in a flurry of political activism? This seems to be a big trend.

    Although, the aspects of “winning” or “losing” aren’t important in the big picture, are they? It’s subjective, and these gray areas can sometimes consume any traditional, heroic plot. The complicated nature of relationships overshadows the chain of events, a morally distraught dilemma overshadows the dilemma itself, and the words, neither right nor wrong, become the sole remembrance.

    That was the focus in “Arson and Agony”: making everything a bit more gray. There remains a war between logic and faith, confinement and freedom, conformity and rebellion. Nobody is necessarily good or bad, right or wrong. Every character is flawed. There is no “correct” way of doing things, and if there is, then it is chosen by the reader’s own sense of morality—which I find an interesting experiment of literature on its own. At the end of the day, there is no right way of reading this—and thus, there wasn’t necessarily a right way of writing it. Truth is broken, and lies are sacred. There is a certain chaos involved.

    I enjoy writing in this dystopian/sci-fi genre because anything can be changed, while nothing can be changed at all. While the world may seem different, the problems aren’t. We, as readers and writers of this genre, are simultaneously rebelling against the norms of society while conforming to the gritty, raw, underbelly-like experiences of that society. We break and mold at the same time, a never-ending cycle of clay and broken pottery.

    Overall, “Arson and Agony” is centered on those small moments of the bigger picture. While I love action and plot as much as the next person, I wanted to focus on the people behind the tropes, on carving out their identities so that they feel real, so that they feel gray. Not much else can be said about it.
    Along the way of birthing these characters, a story unfolded.
    —Kaylie Chiaverini

Date Awarded
  • 2023-04-21
Academic Affiliation
Committee Member
Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2023-05-19
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