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The small details of person, place, and action that while contributing little or nothing to the narrative, give the story its atmosphere, making it feel real. It does not add to the plot to know that the character James Bond wears Egyptian cotton shirts, but it clearly does add considerably to our understanding of him. By the same token, knowing that he buys his food from Fortnum and Mason makes him more real. Thus, as Roland Barthes argues in his essay introducing this concept, ‘The Reality Effect’ (1968, reprinted in The Rustle of Language1984) no analysis of a text can be considered complete if it does not take these seemingly insignificant details into account.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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