The purpose of reading literature

Essay, 2017

4 Pages


The Purpose of reading literature

Literature is broadly defined as written work, especially those considered to have superior or lasting artistic merit. This is the material that is in most cases available for reading to students of literature and any fans of literary work. There are innumerable reasons why one should strive to read literature, and some of the reasons are; provision of pleasure, a building of experience, information, provoking of thought, entertainment or even imparting feelings of empathy besides the ability to infer other peoples’ thoughts. There are, therefore, many advantages of reading literature as evidently illustrated below.

The stories that are captured in literature work are mostly captivating and not only amaze but give the reader the feel of what the character in the story is going through (Compagnon, 13). A good story, therefore, has the ability to move the emotions of the reader and the moments after the accident in the story ‘A good man is hard to find’ is a deeply emotional narration that climax with the execution of an entire family. Literature, therefore, appeals to the emotions of the readers. The journey that was meant to be a merry making trip ends tragically, and the readers thus empathize with the characters in the story and by extension, people undergoing similar circumstances in real-life.

Literature exposes causes of people’s disagreement and quarrels. The story ‘A Rose for Emily’ expounds on the reasons of the difference between Emily’s father and his kinsfolk several years before his death. It is through literature that we can, therefore, learn about people’s historical differences.

Literature presents people’s perceptions and morals (Compagnon, 13). The fact that ‘Hills like white elephants’ depicts a scene where the man is hell bent to convince the girl to undergo ‘the operation’ is indicative of a society that has little concern for the life of the unborn baby while the numerous symbols could be indicative of a society that fear to face the truth since the man talks of operation instead of simply saying abortion while the girl is also fond of making reference to images rather than frankly stating her point of view.

Literature is a medium for relaying people’s experience and history. The ‘Open Boat’ is a vivid description of the experiences of several sailors who more often have ended their journey without getting to their destination due to the hazards of the sea. The loss of life despite the several days of struggle is only a special way of using literature to present people’s encounter and challenges in the sea before they finally give up and we are left mourning them. It is only through literature that we can keep an account of such stories of our heroes some of whom we lost while out on a very important mission.

Literature has a unique element of entertaining its readers (Compagnon, 13). When we read literature, the stories we find gives us relief from our usual chores, and by following the plot keenly, we find ourselves being entertained. It is common that when reading a literature piece, one will find themselves being part of the audience that gets entertained either by a thrilling story or even carried by a good song from one of the characters. After a busy schedule of the day, one always feel a very great relief after reading a thriller or just reading through a short comedy.

We experience humor by reading a work of literature and the scene in the story ‘A good man is hard to find’ where the grandmother convince everybody that they should visit an old plantation house on their way to Florida turns hilarious when she discovers that the house was actually not in Georgia but in Tennessee yet they had travelled several miles down the dirt road.

Literature is a strong source of information. We learn through the conversation between the grandmother and Misfit in ‘A good man is hard to find,' some causes of engaging in criminal activities and how the justice system affects the attitude of the people accused some of whom end up convicted of crimes they never committed or have no knowledge about.

Literature provokes our imagination (Speake, 6). There are different interpretations of what the actions of the people at the shore and in the omnibus as highlighted in the story ‘ Open Boat’ could mean to the captain and his colleagues on the verge of drowning. The reading of literature similarly jogs the mind of the reader as he or she makes an attempt to relate the various events presented by an author and making inferences. Following a character through a story will bring the reader to the point of trying to think about the actions of the characters. One is often left wondering why an individual character had to act as they did. The reader will also jog their mind in trying to consider the consequences of the action of characters in literature work. Sometimes one is even left wondering what they would have done if they were in the position of the character. It is true therefore to say that we cannot read through a work of literature without it having to provoke our thought which is entirely healthy to our minds.

A passionate reader of literature acquires the ability to infer other people’s thought and emotions (Speake, 6). The idea of the girl in the story ‘Hills like white elephants’ are expressed in her heavily laden figures of speech and the most part of her discussion with her man is characterized by images that give literature some sweetness in trying to infer their possible meaning and application in context. The words and actions of any character must at all times be taken with very keen interest. This is true since when reading a work of literature; one has to ask themselves why the author made the choice of using certain literary devices, a particular character or even a given setting. By making such inference, the reader is then able to understand the motive of the author and consequently receive the message as intended.

Some literature has the ability not only to present characters that we can associate with but also to expose the reality regarding morality in the society (Selden, 10). Literature shows people’s sense of morality and justice as shown in ‘burn burning’ where a scenario of justice versus family loyalty is presented. We can, therefore, use literature to speak for or against what is societal injustice or even use it to encourage good practice in the society. The fact that literature exposes what happens in society makes it act like a mirror, and we can, therefore, use it to better what is good and identify and remove anything that is not good for the society.

Literature reveals people’s way of entertainment and social life. The boat that capsizes in ‘Open Boat’ was carrying people some of whom were out to make merry. A scenario that is reminiscent of today’s people some of whom visit the coast for celebrations like the New Year or just traveling across the sea for a holiday trip. People visit entertainment clubs and other social places to have pleasure and because literature present to us situations in real life, we can read artistic work that vividly describe our hobbies, a speech from our role model or simply a romantic piece that makes us have pleasure at the comforts of our desk (Selden, 10).

Written by different people from different parts of the globe, literature presents different topics hence a rich source of information. The diversity of literature in terms of setting is a rich source of information about culture or history. Anyone who has developed the culture of reading literature is no doubt an informed person. Since different authors write about different challenges and experience acquired from different backgrounds, it is only through the reading of literature work that one can enrich their information hub. Literature, therefore, gives its readers an opportunity to travel across the globe to acquire information about other people’s culture, infrastructure, health, technology, climate among others (Selden, 10).

As clearly illustrated in the cases above, we can confidently conclude that it is of great importance to read and not only read but to read literature. This is to reap the numerous benefits to our mental as well as our social health.

Works Cited

Compagnon, Antoine. What is Literature for?: Inaugural Lecture delivered on Thursday 30 November 2006. Collège de France, 2014.

Selden, Raman. Practising theory and reading literature: an introduction. Routledge, 2016.

Speake, Jennifer, ed. Literature of travel and exploration: an encyclopedia. Routledge, 2014.


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The purpose of reading literature
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Prof. James Mageto (Author), 2017, The purpose of reading literature, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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