This essay revisits the question of the fictional person, largely by way of Proust’s claim that the novel offers us nonexistent persons the better to espouse vision through other eyes: knowledge of the world as experienced by another consciousness. If the New Critical stricture against taking fictional characters as real beings—something other than writing on a page—is correct, it does not account for the way in which we imagine, make use of, and interact with the minds of literary characters. Yet Proust’s understanding of the fictional being cohabits with the inevitable death of real persons. As in Henry James, for instance, character may border on nothingness, on illusion—yet it appears an inevitable illusion, one that we need in order to make sense of our lives.

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