Literature classes can be maddening. The professor usually has some convoluted explanation for what looks like a simple story. For example, my literature professor pointed out that the open boat in Stephen Crane’s short story, predictably called, “The Open Boat,” symbolizes life and the hindrances a person must overcome.
I didn’t think the story had any mysterious meaning. Four guys. One dingy. Huge chance of drowning. It just seemed like another shipwreck adventure. Just goes to show what I know.
That is one of the reasons why I’m a journalism major and not a literature major. However, this quarter I’m taking a second literature class and I’m again reminded of its importance.
The most significant benefit that great books, poems, or short stories provide, what makes hours of mind-numbing reading worthwhile, is their ability to provoke a flow of inquisitive thoughts and ideas.
For example, a recent reading of “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin, which wasn’t a particularly diverting selection, inspired me to ask weighty questions and mull over the ideas in the story. Reflection of personal fulfillment in life could be contrasted to how Edna, the story’s main character, seeks to find fulfillment. One can hypothesize about what depresses people and about the responsibilities of couples in a marriage.
In my political correctness column last issue, I mentioned the importance of thinking, “If it can’t be thought, it can’t be done.” One of America’s greatest assets is her living, breathing, thinking Americans who use their cognitive functions to make sense of life.
College students are in a position to make the most out of new ideas, and the careful consideration of culture and philosophy can provide answers for a purposeful existence.
When reading a novella like “The Awakening,” or a story such as “The Law of Life” (Jack London), the reader might ponder the ideas and moral dilemmas the characters face.
Is man a product of his environment? What should a person do when they don’t feel fulfilled in life? Asking oneself these questions forces evaluation of one’s own life.
In his book, The Closing of the American Mind, Alan Bloom confronts the dangers of not thinking and reasoning, “The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.”
Historical proof exists showing that thought and logic can be a powerful threat against tyrannical government. The former U.S.S.R used the Glavlit, the central censorship office, to repress, “domestic writings of just about any kind—even beer and vodka labels.”
At a time when government continues to expand, Americans should vigilantly think and reason, ready to fight thought suppression.
The very fact that literature exists evidences the power of thought on humanity. Hundreds of books are published yearly, yet only a few survive for any amount of time. So, before dissing an agonizingly long, arid piece of literature like Crime and Punishment, you might want to think about it.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Posted by the traveler at 6:57 AM