Literature and Modern Society
Frankly, literature is the mirror of the society as it provides insights into the world human beings live in. It helps shape how people think about their culture and the cultures of others. Literature also acts as a guide when it comes to how human beings interpret the world and perceive those around them.
For centuries, literature has been responsible for shaping civilizations all over the world. Literature identifies some of the issues in society and strives to make the reader relate to those issues with the intent of provoking the reader into action. The art form also delves into topics that are normally considered taboo or irrelevant in the social sphere. The purpose of doing so is to criticize stereotypes and empower readers.
For instance, in ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by Tennyson (1832), the poet seeks to address female sexuality, vulnerability, and passivity. According to Brownbridge (2016), Tennyson uses the character of the Lady of Shalott to criticize the role of women during the Victorian era. The character has been trapped in the island and is unable to integrate with the outside world. This is a criticism of the time whereby women were seemingly trapped in the house and were controlled by their husbands or parents.
In the poem, the main character has been cursed to weave steadily, which is an allusion to the roles that women played in those days. Such roles were predetermined and irrevocable, and the women were resigned to them. There is also a sense of futility about such roles, as the author never describes what the character is weaving, or what it is supposed to be once completed. Women were resigned to carry out futile roles that had no bigger objectives. This literary piece is meant to awaken the reader to the reality of gender roles and their contribution to stereotyping of women throughout the centuries.
The poem is still useful today because it helps identify the blight of gender stereotyping in the modern society. The poem can be used as a parallel to the role of women today at home and in the modern workplace. Regardless of the advances that humans have made in terms of female empowerment, a poem such as this one helps the society understand where it is failing when it comes to stereotyping based on gender.
Literature helps frame some of the ironical behaviors exhibited by human beings on a daily basis. It is inherent in humans to take for granted the things freely given, while mindlessly searching for things that they do not need. In ‘Antiheroes’, Saunders (2008) wrote about a new television show that he came up with. In the show, people across the world begin to believe that they have superpowers.
Unfortunately, none of these people actually possesses supernatural powers. All their attempts to use their newfound ‘abilities’ failed miserably. Instead of getting supernatural powers, people begin to lose their basic abilities that they have been taking for granted all their lives. The human race begins to slowly starve to death as more and more people lose their basic abilities.
This literary work is a wake-up call to human beings who have become so obsessed with the notion of possessing outer worldly abilities. Like many forms of literature, this short narrative helps people take a step back and re-examine their lives. Everyone is constantly chasing something that will make them unique when uniqueness is inherent in their basic abilities and who they are. Such works help the society realize what it has been taking for granted and helps people appreciate who they are, and what they have. From the narrative, people can conclude that the constant need to outdo each other will ultimately lead to our demise.
Political systems have been set up and then abolished owing to the effects of literature on the society. People are able to identify some of the injustices in their society through literature and stand up against political elite that propagate these injustices. Literature points to the ills, decadence, and failures of the society enlightening its readers about such topics. The readers gain the insight about the moral decay in their society and strive to make things right again.
The poem ‘Or’ by Sayers (2006), points to the political ills that continue to plague the modern society. In the poem, the poet succinctly identifies political topics that have brought turmoil on the world. For instance, the world is still fighting a seemingly endless battle against racism and that is why the poet mentions the terms, ‘Colored, Colored Only, and Of Color.’ The world is also constantly being bombarded by terrorist activities. Most of the terrorist activities are carried out by neighboring countries. This is the reason the poet mentions ‘or Neighbor, or fear of…of terror’.
Such mentions in this literary work awaken the reader to the reality of the world as well as how political institutions are involved in creating fear. The poem illustrates how bleak the world has become due to political collisions. Human beings need to focus on finding solutions to the political ills that are sadly plaguing the globe.
Furthermore, literature helps human beings connect on basic, fundamental levels such as emotion and desire. This is because literature is the study of human nature. People learn to empathize with others by reading works of literature. They get to feel the pain, sorrow, happiness, and disappointment of the characters in a work of literature. Such empathy is essential when it is applied to real life situations especially those surrounding human conflict. In several instances, literary works have been used as the moral authority in ending human conflict.
For instance, in the short story, ‘A Jury of her Peers’ (Glaspell, 2010), the protagonists in the story Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find ways to defend Minnie, the obvious suspect in her husband’s murder. They seek to protect her because they empathize with her and her situation. Minnie’s husband was overpowering leading her to live a lonely life. Throughout the story, the protagonists see similarities between their lives and experiences with those of Minnie’s. As such, they defend her against the men who have not shared these experiences yet pass judgment on Minnie based on their ignorance and bias towards women.
Such a story is relatable in modern society because such occurrences are frequent. Others who have not experienced the same things often judge people because of preconceived biases and stereotypes. The story identifies a character flaw in all humans and seeks to develop feelings of empathy in the readers. More people will be empathetic towards others in different situations rather than simply pass harsh judgments on them. Modern society will greatly benefit from having more empathetic people. Empathy could be the solution to modern human conflict.
Brownbridge, J. (2016). The Lady of Shallot is an allegory for female oppression in the Victorian era and serves as Tennyson’s argument against the established gender roles.Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mtibor9CAjsgLOL3oydvkuoUlPsTjYl5NdkUM46DYbE/pub
Glaspell, S. (2010). A jury of her peers. Cicada, 12 (4): 33.
Saunders, G. (2008, Jun 23). Antiheroes. The New Yorker. Retrieved on 2/6/2016 from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/23/antiheroes
Sayers, E.T. (2006). Or. Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/48842
Tennyson, A. (1832). The Lady of Shalott. Retrieved on 2/6/2016 from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45359