There's plenty of anxiety in literature and people love to read about other people's hell. The more hell there is in literature, the more copies they sell. The intensity of anxiety in Black/Asian literature for example is tremendous. According to Kierkegaard, anxiety boils down to having to choose. Choose, meaning that we have FREEDOM to choose whatever, however we would like to live out our lives. In literature, anxiety the characters experience have to do with freedom. What they do want out of the situation that they are facing? There is always a situation where the character has to CHOOSE. She/he is faced with their own sense of freedom.
''No free man needs a God, but was I free?'' Are we free to choose? How and what does literature teach us about freedom and the ability to ease our anxiety? Do we want to be relieved of it? What if there was no anxiety in literature?
"Anxiety/dread/angst is unfocused fear. Kierkegaard uses the example of a man standing on the edge of a tall building or cliff. When the man looks over the edge, he experiences a focused fear of falling, but at the same time, the man feels a terrifying impulse to throw himself intentionally off the edge. That experience is anxiety or dread because of our complete freedom to choose to either throw oneself off or to stay put. The mere fact that one has the possibility and freedom to do something, even the most terrifying of possibilities, triggers immense feelings of dread. Kierkegaard called this our "dizziness of freedom."" (Wikipidia)
Anxiety means that we grapple essentially with our humaness and our destiny as free agents. Which really is about choices, how we live, who we vote for, how we raise our children, how and what we do with our freedom, etc. This big anxiety picture Kierkegaard has drawn for us shows us that we have a problem. And that is we want to get rid of it, be relieved of it, that is why we read as fast as we can until it is relieved.
The problems that characters are faced with in literature is that they feel inauthentic and they wrestle with demons, humans, animals to find themselves. This is the ''dizziness of freedom'' that Kierkegaard is talking about. We readers find ourselves when the character in the books find him or herself.
This is a touristic tour of anxiety in literature. It gives the reader a real sense of trauma and anxiety without having to live it. We get the vicarious thrill without of leaving the comfort of our sanity.