Literature – what’s the point?
By Duane Hewitt
Literature might best be described as written works of longstanding merit; particularly where the value lies in beauty of language or emotional effect. The term literature often applies to fiction that is notable, but literature also encompasses nonfiction, poetry, journalistic works, or any body of written works.
Readers are often introduced to literature in their school years. In many cases this involves required reading as well as those books that are suggested reading as one might see on a high school’s recommended reading list for literature. The question might at times beckon: Is there a purpose to literature? What’s the point?
Literature introduces us to worlds that we would otherwise not have access. The huge body of available literary works – or any single work of literature – can allow us, the reader, to explore. And, in so doing, we are presented with questions, answers, new ways of thinking, different outlooks, larger truths, and vast amounts of insights and knowledge. We learn and grow. Literature is arguably an invaluable part of the human experience.
But perhaps first and foremost, literature provides us with entertainment and escapism. Literature is fun – or, at least, it can be. For the reader, this can mean being swept away through worlds of imagination and wonder. But it isn’t simply escapism that makes literature so alluring. Good literature often presents us with new realizations and new awareness. It can give us broader insights into the world around us. Through character, plot, and the literary devices of any good book, we are introduced to new aspects of ourselves. We see in a new light; with a new level of understanding. In reading any particularly good literary work, we meet the writer “half way.” We bring ourselves to the story. And, in so doing, our reading experience becomes like a partnership with the writer. Along with the orator, we are observers, participants, gods, councilors, psychologists, social analysts, and whatever other hat we might wear as it befits a particular literary work.
The many great literary works available to readers allows for some truly inspired exploration and indulgence; even “guilty pleasures,” so to speak. One can become a hero or heroine, a scoundrel, a murderer, an unduly done-upon orphan, a domesticated dog that turns wild, and so very much more. And the list of “recommended reading” is something to behold. There’s something to suit any reader’s taste and any level of reading. After all, Call of the Wild is nothing like Catcher in the Rye. Moby Dick is oh-so different from A Tale of Two Cities. And if you’re struggling with Wuthering Heights, why not put the book down and switch to Lord of the Flies – or Lord of the Rings, for that matter?
Through literature, we discover more about people, places, cultures, and other ways of thinking. Emotions are stimulated. Critical thinking and empathy are enhanced. Thanks to literature, we may just find that we think and function quite differently as a participant of the world.
Literature serves many purposes for readers. There is much to learn, much to assimilate, and much to reflect upon. Ultimately, what literature offers to the reader are the blessings of countless new experiences in worlds galore – and all from the comfort and safety of our beds and armchairs.
Copyright 2017 Duane Hewitt. All rights reserved.