The paper explores the eternal theme of morality and its effects on human thoughts and actions as depicted in M. L. Stedman’s debut novel The Light between Oceans (2012). The aim is to study how her characters, facing a demanding post-war environment, deal with morally challenging events in their lives and how they are able to fight the socially accepted concepts of what is right and what is wrong as well as the consequences of the serious decisions they make. Tom Sherbourne, a WWI veteran, settles down to his new job as lighthouse keeper and marriage with Isabel, but instead of finding peace, he faces several moral dilemmas which create a cold distance between him and his wife, as well as between his pre-war and actual self. In this sense, the paper tries to describe what Stedman has to say - through Tom’s character - about the nature of human morality and decision-making and how tragic their consequences might be.
Aesthetic distance is a phenomenon that has attracted a considerable amount of attention, especially since the first works of postmodernism came to light. Aesthetic distance is based on creating such works which - using certain artistic tools and techniques - break the illusion and thus inhibit readers from immersing themselves in the literary world portrayed in the work they read. As a result, aesthetic distance creates a liminal space, or an invisible but consciously perceivable border between reality, i.e. the world we live in and fiction, i.e. the world we want to relocate to and enjoy during the reading process. The paper is based on an article by Bjorn Thomassen, in which he presents several types of liminality and states that the typology is not final. My aim is to prove that liminality can occur in literature as well, particularly in works built on aesthetic distance. In this matter, I focus on the reception theory of Wolfgang Iser, who studies literary texts from three perspectives: the text, the reader and the communication between the two. The theory is applied to selected short stories of American literature, which contain illusion-breaking features and thus may be viewed as liminal spaces.