Literature can take many forms, and in doing so, has many purposes. For both reader and writer, the production and consumption of literary art can be therapeutic, enlightening, and life-altering. Novels, poems, and short stories all have the power to engage a reader and help them grow intellectually and spiritually. From Shakespeare and Milton to Shel Silverstein and Kevin Henkes, all literature serves a purpose, and leaves the reader forever changed in some way, shape, or form.
Literature as Pleasure
A 1-year-old can pick up "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle and become mesmerized by the beautiful illustrations on each page. That same child, 20 years later, could be sitting in their dorm laughing hysterically after realizing the significance of the title of Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury." At all reading levels, literature has the power to elicit pure pleasure from the reader. Authors, too, find happiness in creating hysterical, comical or satirical material for like-minded individuals to enjoy.
Literature for Creativity
Budding writers young and old draw inspiration from the stories they themselves have cherished most. Ernest Hemingway once stated, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn.'" Great books beget great writers. A young writer may be inspired by the fictional universe created in Herbert's "Dune," or the political intricacies of Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga, and in turn strive to create his own characters world, and plot. The magic of literature is that the more a reader consumes, the more she is capable of producing.
Literature for Information
Stories written during certain eras can sometimes help readers understand that time period better than an encyclopedia entry about the era. While textbooks are written in dry, factual prose, a great piece of literature can bring to life historical scenes from years past. A textbook entry on slavery-era America may tell what happened and who the important historical figures were, but novels such as "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" bring the complexities of pre-Civil War America to life. Historical textbooks may educate a reader about events, but literature can enlighten readers about how and why the events came to pass.
Literature and Morals
From Aesop's Fables to Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," literature has been used as a teaching tool since the first words were written. Elementary students begin learning "the moral of the story" from fables such as "The Tortoise and the Hare," which teach them life lessons to help them grow as human beings. As readers grow, classics such as "Huck Finn" teach them the drawbacks of society's ills, in hopes that humanity does not repeat them. A great piece of literature can change the way people see the world, and can guide humanity toward a better existence.
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