6 Benefits of Literature
All major areas of study have benefits for students and society, and literature is no different. No other courses can provide these unique benefits to students.
Wisdom and Insight
Hard times generally produce wisdom, insight, and maturity for an individual. One of the valuable benefits of reading classical literature is that it helps develop those traits in the thoughtful reader.
The main characters in literature face the struggles of human existence. They learn and grow from their experience.
In a second hand way, the reader gains the insight of the main character. We don't want children to face all the injustices of society, to fear for a father lost at sea, or battle nature in order to survive.
But as they identify with the main character as they face such situations, the reader also gains the wisdom and insight through the literary experience.
Recognizing Good and Evil
Most literature deals with major human or social conflicts. The story of humanity is to find what is right and just, and do it.
Do we not have ethics classes to teach the same? Literature places a name and a story to the problems and suffering of mankind. It allows the student to listen to the characters, think about the impact, and discuss it with others.
Ethics is abstract, usually taught by an authoritative "moderator," generally not entertaining or particularly well-written, with texts that change rapidly from one scholastic year to the next.
Classical literature is an art that shows the struggles of humanity since story-tellers first picked up their writing implements. It is an ancient but relevant art form on the story of mankind.
More than just a rehashing of ethical principles, literature celebrates the heroism of its characters who demonstrate
- Love and Loyalty
- Persevering in the face of opposition
- Standing alone
Provides Historical Perspective
Much of literature covers historical eras and themes. Literature can make history come alive. Instead of studying maps and memorizing dates, the reader is engaged with the people of that era. Their dialogue, culture, thoughts, and events are portrayed by characters the reader grows to understand.
Literature and the other arts transmit culture far better than any other academic process. Values and insights are taught and embraced through the rising action, climax, and denouement of well-told and oft-repeated tales.
It is important to note that communist countries and dictatorships have often removed a society's classic books and stories from classrooms and libraries. In the redesigning of a society, the tales that encouraged readers to consider the protagonist who stood alone and resisted evil are not to be tolerated.
Analyze Social Weaknesses
Literature also reflects the short-sightedness of our species. It was a slow process to understand that two neighbors can have different religions without one controlling the other. It took centuries to discover that a different culture did not mean another individual had less value. It is a lesson we are still learning but has its roots deep in our history and our language.
Many of our favorite stories were written by those who did not understand the value of those from other cultures. Fairy tales believed only the prince and princess could be happy and step-parents are all mean. Stories were told with men and women of indigenous cultures as though they lacked intelligence because they did not have technological sophistication.
Such stories show how our own culture and understanding has grown.
It is also interesting to note how it was often the merchants and tradesmen who were usually at the edge where one culture interacted with another. They were the explorers and frontiersmen often understanding the strengths of the other people groups as well their own culture much more accurately than their other countrymen could.
Such analysis does not come from studying anthropology, sociology and other lines of study as well as it does from reading the literature of an era.
Why is literature important when compared to popular books?
Classical literature describes the important events and themes in human history. Whether it is the battle for an empire or the battle for a human heart, the outcome is important.
In comparison, popular books often have plots dealing with less urgent issues. Who will win the contest, where is the puppy, will the popular kids at school include me?
Such themes may be issues today's young people deal with and identify with. But it provides them with less insight for facing the wider issues that face them in the future.