Why Should We Read and Study Literature

There isn’t one simple and strict definition of what literature is. There are many, many definitions and meanings, yet all of them interpreted across different cultures are somehow true.  Starting from that point we can make a connection with the question why should we read and study literature. People read literature because there is a school curriculum where is stated that we have to read certain number of book per semester. Beside this obligatory curriculum,  people read literature because they want to experience how is to be in the skin of somebody else. In addition people read literature because through reading they understand their own culture and their own life. When reading literature people respond to the text, the characters and the plot. The most frantic and surprising fact is that people read literature  because by examining the thoughts and actions in the book they develop their ability to criticize as well as their ability for creative solutions.

There are different genres of writings, and all of them have different themes and different plots. For example in the book “Slaughter House Five” is about the experience in World War II, to be more precise the book is about a tragically event, the bombing of Dresden. The younger generations were not born in the time when World War II took place, so they don’t know what was happening  during that period, consequently they can not even imagine and experience what Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his book. People should read literature in order to know that the history was not written by the writers rather it was saved by them for the whole eternity. After reading such a book one would probably question the humanity and their existence.

Literature is our way to understand our life purpose, our society and our culture. By reading  many books, poems, stories, plays and other types of literature  readers compare them selves, their lives, their believes with the ones described in the book. Readers discover that different people have different destinies and they are doomed to end their live in such a way. For example, the story from Shirley Jackson “The Lottery” is not a story about a lottery, rather it is a story about stoning people to death. One possible interpretation could be that stoning people is a century old ritual, sacrificing   villagers to the Gods in order to have rain so the crop can grow bigger. Imagine people in 1948 reading this story, they taught it was a true event which just happened. The author of this story was threatened to be killed and thousands of hatred letters arrived on her address. It is just amazingly mysterious how one event can change the life of a thousands of people.

People should read literature because it raises their ability to respond to characters and plot and other elements in the text, not only intellectually but also emotionally. The two literature works mentioned above will have the people respond to them differently. Some people would be emotionally touched whereas the others will look for a reasonable explanation why such an event would happen. Responding to literature, there is not a single right way to respond as long as you have an argument, strong evident from the text. There is no right or wrong in literature.

By examining the thoughts and actions of the characters in a certain story or book, readers develop their ability to criticize and they develop their ability to creatively respond. Readers create their own opinions and they either support the characters or not. The reader also criticizes the written book’s style, the consequence of events and the language used. Readers develop creativity, the ability to examine the text alone and come up with possible interpretations.  “Literature is not things but a way to comprehend things“. We study literature in order to comprehend things.

To conclude, there is not one solid argument why should we read and study literature, because there are many arguments. Richard Kearney in his book “On Stories” wrote “More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories make our lives worth living”. (page 3) It could be interpreted that our life is a story to be told and if we do not talk about that then it is not worth living. Therefore,  while not reading books people will no know how much is their life worth.

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