Being asked the question “how does literature affect communities?” can bring about many answers as well as many different points of views. Everyone has different views and points that they wish to express in life, no matter what the topic. Everyone sees life itself differently, and that is the same when it comes to literature. Each individual that reads a story, novel, or piece of poetry is affected by it differently and therefore they respond to it and are affected by it differently. In return the community itself is affected by literature differently. However, there is still a common ground that we all must walk on before reaching the last page of a book or line of a poem- we must all begin at the beginning.
The community has been affected by literature for ages. Since the first page of literature was written it has affected the community. When books were first introduced into the world they were not accepted by the community that well, because many people did not even have the pleasure of knowing how to read. Therefore, they may or may not have been interested in the books. Once people were taught how to read their interest in reading grew and the community was affected by authors’ historical stories, fantasies, fiction, and stories of their own lives. This domino affect has been occurring for hundreds of years and will continue to affect those in the future.
Even our readings from this past week show how communities are affected by literature. Take “The Prodigal Son” by Luke for example. In the story it talks about a father and his two sons. One of the sons stayed by his father’s side and worked for him without complaint. The other son however, as soon as he was old enough asked for the inheritance that his father was saving for them. The father did as his son asked, sold half of his land, and gave it to his son. The son then went and spent his entire inheritance on frivolous living. Once all his money was gone, his “friends” left him as well. The son ended up homeless and eating next to the pigs! He was totally desperate at this point, and then it dawned on him that his father had many servants, and he did not see any of them eat next to the pigs. The son, then humbly returned home, and asked his father to be a servant. His father was so happy to have his son back that he forgave his son of his arrogance and prepared a feast in honor of him returning. Well- his other son was not too happy about this and complained to his father about how he stayed by his side and his brother did not. The father answered his son’s complaint with a very wise answer “son thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead and is alive again; and was lost and now his is found (DiYanni p. 28). ” The father was simply saying, what I have is still all yours, but your brother is alive and you should be grateful that he is not dead.
This story has affected the community by giving people who feel that they are lost and have no hope, the faith to believe, that there is hope beyond the negative thing that they are facing. Even if that problem was created by their wrong doing. This story is very prominent in the religious community. It has been used many times to give people that feel that they are the scum of the earth, the faith in knowing, that you can still receive forgiveness in spite of everything that you have done wrong. For example, in my own life I have done things that I know have hurt my parents, no matter how big or small the situation was. However, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, my parents have never stopped loving me and holding out their arms. So, like me the community is impacted by this story, because of the lesson of forgiveness that it shows.
Another story in our readings that showed how the community is affected by literature is “A & P” by John Updike. In the story, there is a young man that stands up for three girls that do not give him a time of day. The three girls walk into a store to buy something, the problem is that they are wearing bikinis, which is against the store’s policy. Well- the manager confronts them (doing his job) and a young clerk does not think that the manager is right, because he made the “pretty girl blush”, so he quits his job to get the girls attention and does not receive any at all. I think this story affects the community, because it shows how two people can be in the exact situation and think totally different from one another, as well as, learn differently.
This brings me back to my statement that I stated in the beginning, each individual that reads a story, novel, or piece of poetry is affected by it differently and therefore they respond to it and are affected by it differently. Therefore the community itself again is affected differently. In both of these literature stories there was different examples and each individual in the story learned a different lesson, whether it was to forgive, to stand up for what you believe, or to follow the protocol that your job requires. Therefore when an individual reads these stories they will too be impacted differently, because our belief systems are different, which is what makes our community so diverse, interesting, and unique.
DiYanni, R. Literature reading fiction, poetry and drama, McGraw Hill (2007)