11 APRIL 1998, Page 27

Jail fever

Sir: Your worry that the Deirdre Rachid case is a symptom of an increasing confu- sion of reality with virtual reality is needless (Leader, 4 April). What we have started to call 'virtual reality' has been around for a long time in the shape of fiction and drama. For these to work you have, in some way, to


believe in the characters and the situation. If La Boheme does not move you to tears or Ken Dodd to laughter, there is not much point in going to the theatre. If you don't care what happens to Little Nell or Deirdre Rachid there is little point in read- ing novels or watching soaps. Human beings (including, according to recent research, quite young children) somehow manage to get emotionally involved in fic- tion while continuing to know that it isn't real.

The fuss over Deirdre's sentence, like the row over the Royal Opera, is a sign that the arts are surviving in spite of the govern- ment. We should be pleased about this, and recognise that opera and soap opera stand together in satisfying a real human need. And, instead of bemoaning British mores, you should be making your best efforts to get Mrs Rachid freed.

George Marshall

la Greenfield Road, Bollington, Cheshire