“Literature is a reflection of the society” (Elements of literature, 2009). Literature is the representation of an individual, their language and culture. It reflects society in the framework of occasions, traditions, background, thoughts, and beliefs of that time. Literature helps the reader to understand about the experience by narrating the images of the neighborhood and by this the reader will have a good judgment about the individual and society. Writers make use of their art through words in order to reveal everything which they see around them. Through their powerful language they are able to make the readers feel about the cheerfulness, distress and the life experience of the society. Most of the writers in their literary works show the story of humanity. Through various literary elements writer makes feelings, emotions towards the reader. There are many types of literary works like drama, poetry, novel, short story etc. The literary man uses different kinds of literary elements in different kinds of work. In a drama he uses the literary elements like plot, character, settings and so on and in poetry he uses style, theme etc.
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“The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara is a story in which the writer approaches colloquially in order to give a brief account to the readers about the style of languages which the African –American community used in late 1960’s.” Toni Cade Bambera’s ‘The Lesson’ demonstrates the impact of socioeconomic class distinctions on childhood perception and development.” (Essays about lesson Toni, 2009). It also reveals the two kinds of constitutions that prevailed in US society connected with the blacks and whites as well as rich and poor. The main character named, Sylvia is a very poor African-American girl who with her friends goes out for a shopping and she finds it difficult to buy the toys which she liked and at the same time, the rich people spends money to buy whatever they see in the shop. Sylvia understands the painful reality that, this world is meant for the whites and the wealthy people. And she happens to know more about this from her neighbor Miss Moore. Even though the story begins by the miserable conditions which the colored and poor people face in the society: at the end there arises logic of optimism as the little girl with a firm mind rises above from her present situation. So, one can say that more than cultural and economic inequality, this story gives an example about life and how one can study its value. Here, in the short story the writer uses a different style of language in order to make the readers know that different kinds of culture and people exist in this society.
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner is an example of a short story which shows how literature reflects community and the writer uses this short story to concentrate on the theme of alteration and development as it is associated to the American South. The story is about Emily Grierson an alienated bachelor living in South in the later ninetieth or early twentieth century. Thus, the work reflects the community in the context of time especially the later ninetieth or early twentieth century life and situations of people. In the story one can see the pathetic condition of the South due to the industrial revolution as the industry and custom tries to coexist in Emily’s little town. There arise signs of industrial growths especially cotton gins and on the other side Emily’s house is haunting the unattractiveness and perished beauty. Thus, the story describes the earlier glorious days with loftier aspirations and pride. Miss Emily is by no means a typical Gothic woman who is a victim of her society and circumstances and thereby isolated amongst the constantly altering world of south.
In this story the attitudes and beliefs of people in the later ninetieth and early twentieth century can be seen very clearly through the characters and their actions. The people with aristocratic birth maintained to behave as land possessors even though they lost all of them. This attitude can be seen in the character of Miss Emily as she behaves arrogantly towards others under the privilege of aristocratic birth and past glory. Men of the old South like Colonel Sartoris and Judge Stevens governed under the code of chivalry and are protective of white women and in this view Sartoris is incapable to allow the tax collector to tax the poor bachelor and Stevens not capable to confront Emily to the smell from her house. The change occurs when the new generation came as they are not ready to accept the old-fashioned social traditions of their forefathers. The man collects the taxes of Emily not in the way of his grandfather’s convention as she is an annoyance to the progress in the eyes of the new generation. Thus, Faulkner was very successful in depicting the conflict between ninetieth and twentieth century southern society through this story. The issues in the story are the representative of American South’s incapability to progress along with the industrialized North after the Civil War. Though Emily behaved arrogantly towards the people and kept a staunch individualism, the people loved her which is revealed through their presence at the time of her death. “A sort of hereditary obligation up on town, the people came to the funeral as a respectful affection for a fallen monument.” (Faulkner & Robinette, 1983, p.5, para.5). This shows the reader about the time, belief and attitudes of people in the South.
Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” gives a detailed description of an ordinary man who happened to be the bread winner of the family, later with troubled mind turns mad or sick, and also the society’s attitude towards the sick or broken people. In this book, Gregor Samsa is the living symbol of the broken or sick people who worked only for his family, and who unfortunately turned into a broken man and later isolated by his family and society. “Gregor provides for his family in the same way as an insect would provide for its nest or hive.” (Fitzgerald). He worked hard to help his family and often provided everything they needed. The realization that his life is like an insect turned him to a broken man; soon he lost his job and later became a burden to his family and society.
This is the situation everybody faces in the society as nowadays society is indifferent to the feelings and situations of other individuals. Often the sick or broken people become a burden to the society, as the people in the society have no time and patience to bother about them. Like Gregor, people work for their family and relatives without considering their own life and time. The realization of their buggy life makes them sick and later they happen to be a burden to their family and society. When he became sick his family was not bothered for him but they were in a hurry to get job. At first, Grete Samsa showed some concern but later she too was fed up with him. And he was a problem even for the lodgers. People sacrifice themselves for their family but later become isolated from the same family for whom they worked hard.
The story is impressive as it depicts the vital situation of the transformation of a man into an insect, and lying on his back, helplessly waves his little insect legs in the air. (The metamorphosis and Summary & Study Guide). The lack of loyalty, concern and understanding often lead people in an isolated condition and this makes them sick and disordered. Society or people never show any consideration to those people, who suffer from great diseases, or old people, or drug addicts or homeless. Society never helps them but ill-treat them rudely without any mercy.
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Thus, one can conclude that literature reflects individual as well as community to a great extent and whole culture influences each other. The three literary works ‘The Lesson’, ‘A Rose for Emily’ and ‘Metamorphosis’ which are cited here are the best examples to prove the thesis, literature reflects both individual and community.
The term elements of literature give number of ideas about plot, structure, characterization, language, and diction of a particular piece of literature. Poetry is considered as the widely accepted genre of literature. Analyzing the use of literary devises and language, one can see that poetry constitutes more complex stature than other forms of literature. Poems like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, “My Papa’s Waltz,” by Theodore Roethke, and the “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin discuss the very theme internal struggle and meditation. Frost’s poem is all about his inner conflicts and confused status of his mind in selecting the profession. This poem is especially notable for the presentation of the theme and it puzzles an ordinary reader. There is possibility for the reader to misinterpret the poem as it deals with two roads diverging in the yellow wood. But to a deeper level, the readers can go through the inner conflicts of the poet when he narrates his own autobiographical element with imaginative coloring. An episode from the life of the poet has portrayed well in the poem, especially when the poet was in the confusion of selecting his career.
He portrays the two roads which symbolize the two professions, namely, the profession of a teacher and the profession of a poet. The main feature of the poem that differentiates it from other poems is its inner meaning. Poet’s fascination to nature, like Wordsworth, is identifiable with the poem, particularly when singing about the beauty of the two roads. Trees, mountains, rivers, and so on, always attracted the attention of the poet and he tried to expose their acute beauty.
The poem stands as a best element of literature which is filled with different poetical devices and symbolism. Frost uses the wood as a symbol of poet’s life and the two roads are two professions; so the wood and roads have enough relevance in the life of the poet too. The poet has strong reasons for selecting the road that best suits (as he thinks) for his life.
In the poem, ‘My Papa’s Waltz’, one can find the same element – conflict has been well presented. It sings about some serious conflicts between an alcoholic father and his son. Here the poet has proved his ability in portraying and studying the inner conflicts of the father and the son. There are different lines in the poem that deal with the close attachment between the father and son. The father’s mind is filled with the complexes of his social and economic status. In the case of the boy, he suffered with the conflict that his affection towards father and the mischievousness of his father’s behavior. When dealing with the problem /conflict of the boy, poet writes:
“You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.” (Burke, 2009, para.4).
The anxiety of the child at the beating of his father is evident at the beginning of the poem. Anyway, the boy trusts his father too much and relies upon him. Different writers abuse the alcoholic father and his inner conflicts show some resemblances to the character of Joe Keller in Miller’s play, ‘All My Sons’. According to them, both the pieces of literature portray the conflicts of American middle class society. One of the notable themes in the poem, “My Papa’s Waltz” is the abuse of childhood. In this poem also, one sees man appearing as characters rather than that of other elements.
‘The Story of an Hour’, by Kate Chopin is a well read story that affected the feelings of the readers. Natalia Dagenhart remarks; “Although the story is really short, it is very rich and complete, and every word in it carries deep sense and a lot of meaning. “ (Dagenhart, 2009, para.2). The story colorfully discusses the story of Mrs. Mallard who enjoys an elegant life, though readers are capable of recognizing it at the beginning. Readers meet Mallard as a diseased person. Evaluating this story one sees the fact that it is also a story in which the poetical devices play their vital role in forming the theme and treatment.
The world is filled with different culture. These different cultural frameworks make the literary work a different one. A literary work gives a real picture of human life. Even different literary works like drama, poetry, and novel take hold of the real social life and their culture. So literature is important in many aspects and no one can disregard it as it is the reflection of life itself.
Lorraine Hansberry ‘s play “A Raisin in the Sun” tells about the colored people in US. This play is about the African –Americans and their dream to live in this land by enjoying full freedom without concerning their color. Many problems which the human folks faced in 1950’s were discussed in this play. “However, a central theme of A Raisin in the Sun reveals how racism from the housing industry, government, religious leaders, and average Americans supported the segregated housing environment of Chicago.” (Colas, n.d., para.2). The blacks suffered a lot in Chicago and they lived in ghettos which were overcrowded. Here in this work she tells about the agony of the black community and also includes her own life experience. The play “A Raisin in the Sun” discusses about a black family in Chicago who is combating in opposition to color prejudice and dreaming to live like the whites live. The Younger’s family lives in a bad apartment where they have to share their bathroom with the other families who were living near by. So they wish to live in a better place where they want white neighbors. Mama is the one who wishes a lot to move from that apartment. The five members including the little one Travis are facing a lot of problem because of restrictions in every level but each of them has their own dreams.
Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” tells the story of a woman where men treated women badly. In the first half of the play she had been like a doll in her husband’s hand. She had no freedom to do any thing of her own and Helmer always called her a spendthrift. But at last she responded by leaving the house.
“M. Butterfly” is one of the most famous novels by David Henry Hwang, which powerfully gained people’s attention or admiration because the entire drama is told in a humorous way. It is a work of unrivaled brilliance, revealing the serious disagreement between men and women, the dispute between East and West, ethnic stereotypes and the shade around our belief. The drama is based on true story, which is very impressive to humanity.’ M.Butterfly’ tells about the relationship between Rene Gallimard, a French diplomat and Song Liling, a Chinese opera star without being fully aware of the fact that his ‘perfect woman’ was actually a man. The play starts in jail at which Rene Gallimard is imprisoned by French government because he passes sensitive secrets through his lover. According to him, his lover was an ideal woman, he never thought that his lover was a spy of Chinese government and a man masked as a woman. In a sequence of past memories, Rene Gallimard realizes that their affection finally consume them both. But at last only the truth remains. Even though Gallimard’s emotions will truly affect the vital emotions of his life. But only in the real life, the love turns out to be illusory. And only through such type of drama we can realize that how the fantasy can become a man’s mistress as well as his jailer (M. Butterfly, 2006).
To conclude, one can infer that literature is the miniature form of human life which can discuss almost all the aspects of human life. It can copy important and unimportant aspects of society including occasions, traditions, background, thoughts, and beliefs of that time. It is well evident with the literatures discussed above. An evaluation of it clearly identifies the fact that literature reflects both individual and society. Reading through the stories, and poems, one can see individuals appearing and sharing their feelings and emotions with the readers. In the poem, “The Road not Taken,” Robert Frost portrays himself and reveals his pathetic state. The poem moves through Frost’s desires and expectations of his future. The other poem, “My Papa’s Waltz” is also noted for the presentation of individual characters and their mannerisms. The plays “Raisin in the Sun”, “The Doll’s House” and “M.Buterfly” also give the picture of the real society and their attitudes. Thus, one can assume the presentation of individual and society in literature.
Burke, J. (2009). “My papa’s Waltz,” by Theodore Roethke. The English Companion Ning: Where English Teachers Meet To Help Each Other.Web.
Colas, B. (n.d.). Lorraine Hansberry. A raisin in the sun the ghetto trap. Amazon.co.uk.
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Dagenhart, N. (2009). Literary analysis: The story of an hour, by Kate Chopin. Helium.Web.
Elements of literature. (2009). Buzzle.com. Web.
Essays about lesson Toni: Toni Cade Bamberas the lesson. (2009). Mega Essays.com. Web.
Faulkner, W., & Robinette, J. (1983). A Rose for Emily. Dramatic Publishing.
M. Butterfly. (2006). World Drama.
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