The Power of Literature

“What fictional book has challenged your thinking and touched your life in some way?” That was one of the questions we explored recently in a Literature class. Other questions included, “What character in literature do you identify with and why?”

Literature or story and the characters and ideas that it portrays is very powerful.  Powerful literature works its way into our hearts and minds. Characters and situations become so real to us that it is hard to put the book down because we still want to be involved in this person’s life. Sometimes the novel ends so abruptly that we are confronted with a sense of loss. I am still waiting in frustration for Jasper Fforde’s  second book in his series “Shades of Grey” (No! Not 50 shades!). Eddie Russet has been left in limbo for many years.

Scout in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has forever made me more alert to the ways in which young people perceive the world. One student commented that Holden Caulfield’s struggle to accept adulthood is one with which he identifies. Steinbeck was a master at portraying the outcast and misfit. Once introduced to Lennie and George in “Of Mice and Men” we can never look at the people on the fringes of our society the same way again. Good literature confronts us and makes us sit up. We may agree or disagree with the author but at least he or she has made us take notice.

Arthur Miller’s exploration of the ‘American dream’ in his play “Death of a Salesman” discomforts us all as we reconsider our hopes, ambitions, failures and successes, and causes us to reflect on the stories we tell ourselves to justify our existence and legacy. Franz Kafka’s stories written nearly 100 years ago are an ominous omen of the confusion and lack of focus and direction our societies find themselves in today.  I certainly feel like a confused “K” at times as I try to understand the world around me.

Is there a work of literature that will forever be with you? It may be one that you return to time and again. I’d love to hear about it.

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Categories: literature, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “The Power of Literature

  1. mickqhs

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pilseg taught me about how to deal with motorbikes that won’t start and frustrations with life in general. I remember the main guy coming to the realisation that a more useful attitude to his bike( that needed maintenance) was to understand the engine was simply obeying all the laws of physics and that if something like the spark plug was not clean the engine was not MEANT to start. This taught me not to blame the universe or God or circumstance for something which was not working the way I thought it should. God’s laws and physical/nature laws are constant and never change. Accept that fact and life becomes a little more understandable and a little less frustrating.

  2. Richard Rice

    My mother read Aesop’s fables to me when I was a child. The moral and ethical lessons learned then are frequent illustrations I share with my own son (though within a Biblical context).

  3. Atonement by Ian McEwan, was really powerful in its representation of love destroyed by one girls actions. She used the power of story-telling to give the lovers a happy-ever after and ultimately her actions had ruined her life as well. I enjoyed the narrating and re-telling of histories as well as the power of tragedy with the great pathos of the two endings.

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