Literary studies entail presentation of poems, stories, songs, and drama among other forms of art to the community. Literature and related studies date back to the time when language was first used as a medium of communication. Literature has a variety of uses in the society including transforming cultural practices and reflecting the conditions prevailing in the society. It achieves its functions through influencing the thoughts of readers in various ways.
Firstly, the stories or songs can influence the thoughts of an individual thereby enabling this individual to engage oneself in critical thinking about the facts presented in the story. The significance of literature in transforming cultural practices entails literary studies that enable individuals to compare their cultures and lifestyle with other individuals in other societies (Manzo & Perkins, 2006, p. 335).
This essay seeks to highlight the significance of literature in reflecting the conditions prevailing in the community as presented in the story, ‘Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka. On the other hand, the essay analyzes the ‘Lesson’, which is a story written by Toni Cade Bambara with the aim of showing how individuals and societies affect each other in the context of literature.
How does literature reflect the community?
Most literary studies and forms of art provide a brilliant description of the economic, social, political, and familial factors in various societies. In this way, literature brings a reader to the context of the real life experiences in the community.
The community reflected in the story is not necessarily the readers’ and in most cases, such stories present facts about other communities thereby enabling the reader to compare and contrast the conditions in the two communities. On the other hand, literature presents the conditions within the family, which reflect the practices in the whole society.
The story ‘Metamorphosis’, unfolds as the author presents the life of a normal family under the protection of a hard working father and husband. However, as the story progresses, the author tells of a tragedy in which the family man transforms into an insect (Diyanni, 2007, p. 612). This means that this individual may no longer provide for his family. The author further notes that this man had never complained about having to provide for the whole family including his parents and siblings (Diyanni, 2007, p. 613).
The negative side of the story is that the man who was a slave for his family becomes isolated, neglected and abused by the same people he cared for before his transformation. The morale of the story is that it brings the readers to reflect on their respective families and societies in order to root out any vices reflected in the community and family in the story.
How does literature reflect the impact of individuals and societies on each?
Literature has another very important function of showing how individuals influence others in the society thereby contributing to the progress or failure of the societies.
A good example is the story ‘The Lesson’, which entails a narration of the life of a young girl and her neighborhood. The girl lives in a less comfortable neighborhood and her family is unable to provide for themselves because the author indicates that others were helping them (DiYanni, 2007, p. 428).
The situation is not any different from that of other kids in her neighborhood making these kids to hold a negative attitude and impression towards others especially outsiders. The author indicates that their attitude changes when one of the kids’ neighbors takes them to a different neighborhood where life is much different.
The first stop they made was at a toy store whereby the prices of various commodities shock them. At this point, the story brings the reader to seeing the change in the kids’ wanting. The change in the children’s attitude is attributable to their neighbor who had been away from the neighborhood and thus she had the experience of live in the outside world.
This shows the significance of literature in terms of allowing the reader to travel to a world away from one’s own in order to explore new experiences in life. It is thus evident that an individual cannot realize the needs or endearments of others without this individual interacting or having a glimpse of the situation from the perspective of other individuals.
DiYanni, R (2007) Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.
Manzo, L.C., & Perkins, D.D. (2006). The importance of literature to community participation. Journal of Planning Literature, 20 (4): pp. 335-350.