What is verisimilitude, and how is it used in literature?

1 Answer
Oct 3, 2017

Versimilitude is the believability of a text


According to the Oxford Dictionary, verisimilitude is "the appearance of being true or real." Translated to a more literary view of things, versimilitude is the ability of the text be real to the viewer. The more versimilitude a novel has, the more able it is to make the reader "suspend their disbelief" and accept the events of the story.

Authors use versimiltude in literature by drawing parallels from their fictional world to the real world. An example of this would be Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels. Swift criticizes England's political parties the Whig's and Tory's by having having his fictious kingdom ruled by

"two struggling Parties in this Empire, under the Names of Tramecksan and Slamecksan from the high and low Heels on their shoes, by which they distinguish themselves.”

By having the two fictious parties disagree on extremely trivial matters, he mocks the Whig's and Tory's who do the same. Because of this clear parallel to real life, Jonathan Swift achieves a great deal of versimilitude.


Another way authors use versimilitude is by keeping their text consistent, logical and detailed. Readers most often connect with a novel when it flows and doesn't have any obvious flaws. After all, it would be hard to read a story which said one thing, only to say the opposite one chapter later. An example of this is Mark Twain's Adventure's of Huckleberry Finn.

In this novel Mark Twain writes through the perspective of Huckleberry Finn, a boy in the pre-Civil War American South. To give his novel greater versimilitude, Twain has Huckleberry Finn, and other characters, affect a heavy Southern accent and vernacular, like so:

"I didn't want to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because the widow didn't like it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn't no objections... But by-and-by pap got too handy with his hick'ry, and I could't stand it. I was all over with welts. He got to going away so much, too, and locking me in. Once he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful lonesome."

This speech is probably what people sounded like back then in that area, and being so close to the truth is what gives it versimilitude.

I hope I helped!