Why Literature?

I chose a humanities degree not because I wanted to make a lot of money (my current job hunt is proof of that), but because it satisfies the needs of my soul.

Literature carries within it the solution to almost every human need. It fills the gaps of missing education – be it history, culture, psychology, philosophy, science… the list goes on forever. Not only that but literature introduces its readers to all different types of people & circumstances. John Steinbeck introduces us to the tireless, hard working migrants in Grapes of Wrath. J.R.R. Tolkien introduces us to the bravest little hobbit in all the land in the Lord of the Rings series. Elena Ferrante invites her readers into her central character’s most intimate realms of despair as she deals with a devastating divorce in The Days of Abandonment. Susannah Cahalan allows her readers to observe one the darkest and most difficult periods of her life in Brain of Fire.

There are few other means by which an individual can access the intimacies of another person without ever having met them. Admittedly, some of this is achievable by watching films, but the mere conciseness of a two-hour movie cannot convey the same depth that one might find between the pages of a book. Not to mention, many films are based on books, and the directors often take liberties with interpretation. It is better for the reader to come to their own conclusions and make their own decisions about what it is that they have read than to mold their thoughts around the inferred interpretations of a wealthy media company. Again, this is one of the great benefits of literature – to train the reader how to think for themselves and how to look beyond their personal worldview.

The lessons gleaned from a piece of literature and the discussions that surface after reading a thought-provoking piece, are invaluable. I urge you to read. Consider the beliefs that you hold dearly. Now, choose a book that challenges those beliefs. Or, choose a book that introduces new concepts or a competing ideology in relation to that established view. At the very least, by allowing yourself to explore opposing ideas, you will become more capable of defending your established beliefs. Or, alternatively, you may become a little more open-minded. Even better, you might find yourself becoming a bit more accepting and compassionate towards those who differ from your personal worldview.

Reading makes you a better thinker, writer, arguer, decision-maker, imaginer, and vocabulary wizard. It teaches you compassion; it helps you to establish morals; it shows you how to handle real-life dangers, and it gives you confidence in new situations.  I’m not overselling it.  Talk to your English teacher.  Have a conversation with the nearest bibliophile. Google it. Read a f***ing book and find out for yourself!

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10 comments on “Why Literature?

  1. Brilliantly said Rach. I love this. If we all challenged ourselves a bit through literature we would be more tolerant and appreciative of diversity in all facets of life.

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  2. Just thought I’d say this is really well written (I’d expect no less from a literature love, haha). I think reading allows you to become a more empathetic person as it forces you to explore perspectives you had never considered yourself. I personally found that Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant really resonated with me due to its raw honesty in portraying the flaws of a family. Ah I love books!

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    • Thank you! And, I totally agree — who couldn’t use a little more empathy? 🙂 I haven’t read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant yet, but I’ll be sure to check it out now. Thanks for adding to the conversation, and cheers!

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  3. Having recently made the switch from a lucrative career path to a satisfying one, I understand completely. The more I read and learn, the more I realize I have yet to read and learn. It’s frustrating and exciting. I have nothing really to add to what you’ve said. Just want to you to know your voice is appreciated.

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