Literature Exalts the Humanness in Humanity: A Research Paper on the Use of Literature in the Lives of Individuals, Society and the Entire Humanity There are probably over a million books published ever since humanity has discovered the technology that could reproduce books.
This could only mean that anything contained within those books are now within the hands of people, no matter what their social status is, what their cultural background is and what they are capable of. Books are now accessible to everyone, allowing more information and knowledge to be reached by the general public. But now, it is not only books in printed form which is available—with more technological innovations being discovered and developed on a daily basis, all the information on books can now also be read on the palm of your hand through PDAs and electronic readers. They can even be heard through audiobooks wherein professional storytellers, voice actors and sometimes, even the authors of the books themselves read a literary piece for the listeners.What does all this information point to? That of information on books (or ebooks and audiobooks) is now made readily available by the public making information dissemination and appreciation easier, faster and more efficient. And when one talks about books, usually, there is a connotation that it equals literature and literature is something that a great percentage of the world knows and can relate to.
Who does not know William Shakespeare and at least one of his plays? Who has not appreciated the Romantic ideals of poets like Coleridge and Byron? Even the more contemporary works like the Twilight series of Stephanie Meyer and the Harry Potter series of British author, J.K. Rowling are considered as literature no matter what others may say about the literariness of those works. Literature therefore surrounds humanity in an encompassing embrace that makes it impossible for people to ignore it, be unappreciative of it and most especially, to snob their noses at the spectacular spectrum of endless possibilities that the literary word can offer.Literature is something which is ingrained in society and unconsciously, is absorbed, emulated and reined in by people. It is absorbed because people read it and are most often influenced by it.
The works of Marxist authors for example has created socialists and even communists out of political figures. When a lovelorn student gets to read the tragedy of Heloise and Abelard, does he/she not feel pain for the characters of the letters?It is emulated because the world of literature provides such an escape that people want to live in it—to the point that they delude themselves that such time, world or encounters do exist. When the Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series came out, suddenly, the world wanted to believe in such magic and pretend to be elves, dwarves and swordsmen.
People started imitating the lives and personalities of the characters because the lives of the characters are much more glorious.Lastly, literature is reined in by humanity because it is humanity which controls literature in a sense that they create it and yet, literature is able to tremendously influence people. But what is literature exactly for and why is it so important that people even go crazy, lining up for a book release for days? What is the purpose/aim/goal/objective/use of literature that there are courses, subjects, studies, professions that focus on it? Considering that it is just some creative imagination put together to form words—why is literature so imperative to society’s growth and development?There have been constant debates on what is the real purpose of literature that has been on going for ages and yet, a conclusion on what should its purpose be is still not formed. With this research paper, the purpose of literature will be discussed and shall revolve on one single premise: Literature is essential to humanity for the sole reason that literature uncloaks the humanness in humanity. There are multiple opinions regarding literature, one of which is indicated below and which holds a great deal of truth:All the examples of literature…are linked, and not just by the accident of language. They are woven of that same universal thread, and our little bit of the universe would not be the same without any one of them. They are all connected by form…and by content.
Literature exists to serve a single purpose: to give us a better understanding of who we are, and a greater ability to know others and thereby help us to understand others, not destroy them. (Insert your professor’s name here n.p.)This is a writing prompt written by (insert your professor’s name here) and what the prompt expresses is very true. In a gist, what the excerpt reveals is this: Literature is linked by language but not solely on it; literature serves to make humanity understand what it means to be human; and lastly, literature serves to link entire cultures, societies and yes, even dimensions to each other, no matter how different and difficult those other cultures, societies and dimensions may be. With this regard, it can be deduced that literature has such a great aim, something which anyone can readily agree.However, literature also has a selfish purpose and does not solely have such altruistic objectives. It was surmised earlier that literature mirrors humanity and since humanity is selfish, therefore literature also has the capacity to be selfish.
This holds a great amount of truth. Literature exists to both serve individuals in their selfishness and but it also holds a greater purpose in the sense that it educates humanity and links everyone together. Over all, there are three purposes of literature which can be concluded based on readings, discussions and criticisms in this paper: a personal purpose, a social purpose and the overall greater purpose concerning humanity. When George Orwell published Animal Farm in 1945, it was to paint a satirical picture of how Joseph Stalin monopolized the Soviet Union during the World War II and how Stalin was such an evil force that caused the death of many people. However, that was not the only reason why Orwell wrote the book in the first place.
Since Orwell had socialist ideals, he wanted to express his vehemence over the situation with Stalin. And yet, many people applauded Animal Farm for being such a humorous and yet informational book that centered on how literature can be a means to showcase political power and reveal political corruption. Thus, it would seem that literature has a greater purpose but before even the world gets to acknowledge the existence and eventual popularity of any literary work, it was created out of selfish means: To earn money, to become famous, to express a story, to express an novel idea or concept, to express displeasure over society, to declare support for something/someone/some group, to win the acceptance of other prominent writers and literary figures—the list is endless but simply put, literature also serves an individual’s personal desires and gratifications and it just happens that literature eventually serves humanity. Another example is in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper wherein the author/narrator/protagonist of the short story (who is none other than Gilman herself) manages to use writing to vent out the bottled up emotions and depression inside of her. Thus, she was able to make literature as an outlet to all her psychological disturbances that it purged and cleansed her, making her mentally and physically better. How many times has a heartbroken person written poems, songs and stories that would reveal the depth of his/her pain and longing? This use of literature serves to help the individual which is advantageous to the person—but it is still a personal, self-centered reason—one that does not involve humanity at all. In the article of Wendy Griswold entitled, Recent Moves in the Sociology of Literature, she lengthily discusses how the sociological aspect in literature is deemed as important and yet any theories or information wheedled out of the sociological studies in literature would be useless and worthless when applied in the context of the real world (455).
What is most significant in her article though is when she presented the case on how readers are important figures in literature because the readers would interpret any literary work on how they would want it to be (Griswold 457). This can be seen in how a Marxist or Feminist would solely rely on their perspectives and disregard the other possible approaches or perception applicable to the literary work. In lieu with this premise, it just means that people who interpret literature would decipher a novel, poem, prose, play or any other literary work according to how they want it to be interpreted. This is how the Reader-Response Theory also functions in the sense that the readers are important but it does not mean that the readers are the ones who are always in the right when undergoing an appreciation and analysis of literature.
But if Griswold is right, then it means that readers of literature are also selfish people in the sense that what they know is what is right while having a disregard for others. This is an indicator that people who create literature (novelists, poets, playwrights, storytellers and other writers) are selfish people and the readers themselves are selfish too. Thus, literature has a self-serving purpose that it just wants to appease the individual. While this conclusion does hold some truth in it, it is noteworthy to remember that this is not the only reason of why people write and read literature. In Edward Albee’s play, The American Dream, he consciously and intentionally mirrors the ideals (or the lack thereof) of the American society.
The play is all about the emptiness that is within American society since the people fail to recognize what is fully important and significant. The play depicted a family that judged appearances and looks as most important while neglecting to see the morals, scruples and personality of the person as crucial. This theme of The American Dream can be Albee’s cynical perspective on the present society of America, but does not what he say hold any form of truth or weight at all regarding today’s society? Can it not be seen in today’s society that people have become more frivolous, materialistic and self-centered? Thus, what Albee created in an imagined and fictional world is but a reflection of what is real in the present society. Even the ridiculous and impossible circumstances which are illustrated in literary works would also mirror what is true—as what Apter wrote: “Truth in fiction is not a study of probabilities but utilization and discovery of both possibilities and plausibilities to make points about what is probably in our world” (n.p.). There is truth in fiction and the illusory in the sense that it is probable in the real world—that there is a possibility of happening.
Literature does not directly give way what it wants to say or it does not readily reflect what its issue with the real world is. Sometimes, it subtly and vaguely gives hints on what is so obviously wrong in our society but which we fail to see and examine. This is where metaphorical allusions come in to implicitly convey the message and again, as what Apter intelligently discloses, a “tale may be read as an allegory, with the literal story seen as a hieroglyph recording a previously established truth” (n.
p.). This is the social purpose of literature in that it manages to say something about society and since it says something about society at a particular moment in a particular time then literature also serves as a means to historically record the development of a society:Anthologies convey the notion of evolution (the succession of literary movements) and hierarchy (the recognition of masterpieces). They create and reform canons, establish literary reputations, and help institutionalize the national culture, which they reflect. (Mujica 203-204).Literature then becomes significant to the reader since it gives information on historical trends that has happened, which is happening and which will happen in the course of humanity. Literature, though fictional, functions as a history book as well.
For example, when the Bronte sisters wrote their novels that depicted the life during 19th century England, their novels also made readers catch a glimpse of (or live through) what it means to be alive during those times—the amusing customs, the vintage traditions and even the suffocating propriety issues that took a hold on women back then. Thus, literature becomes a rather creative, albeit illusory, history book that readers can enjoy.Aside from the aforementioned purposes of literature, there is one other purpose of literature—it also acts to connect humanity. Kendra Rush and Kelly Lipski both agree that literature creates camaraderie among young children (20). According to their article, Teaching Social Skills through Literature, the children are able to connect “the lives of the characters…to their own lives” and because the books have “underlying social themes, their awareness of social behaviors” would naturally surface when they do face to face interactions and conversations with each other (Rush & Lipski 20). Thus, literature becomes a means for people to socialize and interact with each other—helping them understand one another. But going back to the writing prompt of (insert professor’s name here), literature is supposed to connect humanity and to bridge gaps among people and even fill in gaps within one’s self.
All the other purposes of literature mentioned above all leads to this one major purpose of literature: It uncloaks the humanness in humanity. Because of literature, people fight for what they believe in—whether it is to declare support for socialist ideals or to cry out for freedom from oppression: Akosou also insists that this is the main objective of literature, that one should use literature to “fight for the liberation of an oppressed people” (n.p.). Because of literature, people are able to discover what is wrong within themselves, with others and with their surroundings. Because of literature, cultures and societies are able to come closer even if there is a great difference in language, customs and background since literature highlight things about humanity that is universal: Love, freedom, justice, death, pain, and other things that are central to human life. In conclusion, it is true that through literature, it can be seen that the universe is connected with the same thread and this thread links everyone to everyone else. Though each individual work is different and each literary masterpiece is unique, there exists a commonality among them—it depicts the entire universe of humanity in a few pages of carefully constructed words.
And this makes literature, truly and inevitable beautiful in its purpose.Works CitedAksou, Tyohdzuah. “Literature, Culture and Politics: Mphahlele’s Critical Theory”.
The Writing of Ezekiel (Es’kia) Mphahlele, South African Writer: Literature, Culture and Politics. Lewiston, Queenston, & Lampeter: Mellen University Press: 1995. Web. Gale Literature Resource Center. 16 May 2010.Albee, Edward.
“The American Dream”. The American Dream and Zoo Story: Two Plays by Edward Albee. New York: Plume, 1997. Print.
Apter, T.E. “Introduction: Fantasy and Psychoanalysis”.
Fantasy Literature: An Approach to Reality. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1982. Web. Gale Literature Resource Center. 16 May 2010.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. New York: The Feminist Press, 1996. Print.Griswold, Wendy.
“Recent Moves in the Sociology of Literature”. Annual Review of Sociology 19. (1993): 455-467. Web. JSTOR. 16 May 2010.
Mujica, Barbara. “Teaching Literature: Canon, Controversy, and the Literary Anthology”. Hispania 20.2. (1997): 203-215. Web. JSTOR.
16 May 2010.Rush, Kendra & Lipski, Kelly. “Teaching Social Skills through Literature”. Illinois Reading Council Journal 37.4. (2009): 20-25.
Web. Project MUSE. 16 May 2010.