Literature is a highly significant part of people’s lives nowadays, though everyone engages in it for different reasons. Someone likes to drown in the plot and read exciting stories, and someone analyzes everything they read in an attempt to expand their knowledge. However, some people do not appreciate literature or do not understand its value in the modern world. It probably means that they have not found their reason to get acquainted with literary works and start their journey in the world of literature yet. This paper offers an introduction to literature, explaining what it is and why it matters. For the purposes of this paper, two particular works have been chosen as the best combination to make an introduction. Those works are The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin. Literature is important for people as it provides an opportunity to acknowledge how the world works and teaches how to set goals and separate reality from delusions.
Writers Sharing Their Experiences
First, it is essential to understand that every single literary work is created by a human hand, meaning that both writers and readers are practically parts of the same society. Whenever someone reads a book, whether it is a detective novel or a short romantic story, they can feel an echo of another person who has written that book, though they can be miles away. The primary reason for that is the fact that any writing “always carries an impression of its author” (Manzoor 1059). In other words, a writer cannot and will not write on a topic they are not acquainted with: their works will always be based on their own experiences or imagination. Reading a story written by another person is in many respects similar to a dialogue with a friend: they both want to tell one another something to make it a part of their own knowledge.
As it is known, knowledge often comes from experience, and obtaining it is a part of human development. People find themselves in various situations, and sometimes they may be challenging, forcing participants to make difficult decisions and suffer considerable losses. The next time people get in a similar situation, they will be more careful, remembering their previous experiences and behaving based on them. Literature, however, resembles such situations and the knowledge of authors who have written their stories after experiencing particular life events (Manzoor 1059). Moreover, famous writers are usually people who have been through much since it is practically a necessity: otherwise, there would be nothing to share in writing. In other words, literature allows people to know about other people’s experiences and use that knowledge to make deliberate choices in the future should life put them in a similar situation.
Considering everything mentioned above, it is vital to becoming acknowledged with the surrounding world as soon as possible to reduce potential suffering since serious problems may reach people even at an early age. For example, the childhood of Charlotte Perkins Gilman was difficult as her father left the family, and her mother tried to teach the daughter not to expect other people’s affection (Manzoor 1060). It is evident that such experiences may significantly affect one’s life, and not always in a positive way, which is reflected in The Yellow Wallpaper. The central female character of the book, which is about to get married, says that she sometimes gets “unreasonably angry” with her future husband (Gilman 12). This fact may illustrate that the woman is partially afraid of getting married and becoming attached to someone in general, as Gilman’s own father, who was supposed to be the man of the family, left her. If the fact that this character is a reflection of the author’s personality is true, then the woman’s behavior appears completely reasonable.
That fact is proven by many similarities that can be found between Gilman and the protagonist of her story and, additionally, the fact that The Yellow Wallpaper is written in the first person. For example, both Gilman and her protagonist demonstrated signs of depression (Manzoor 1060). Writing stories and diaries is what helped them deal with it. Another exemplifying similarity is Freudian repression – a significant common factor related to both the author and the central character of her writing. Repression stands for “forces which help us to forget the unaccomplished desires, unresolved conflicts” (qtd. in Manzoor 1063). The same is true for Gilman: her anger and disappointment, which were described in the previous sections of this paper, can be observed in The Yellow Wallpaper’s protagonist, as well. For instance, they occur to readers when the woman’s husband does not allow her to write a diary (Gilman 13). These facts demonstrate that Gilman’s personality, at least partially, resembles her protagonist.
Therefore, many literary works known to people nowadays often reflect on their authors’ own experiences, allowing readers to draw on them, make conclusions, and acquire knowledge. The Yellow Wallpaper, in this case, perfectly introduces literature to a person as it accurately illustrates what troubles people may be going through during their life paths and how they can affect them. Evidently, it would not mean that readers perceive that knowledge and gain the ability to avoid those troubles: everyone eventually faces severe challenges in their life. Nonetheless, books, stories, and poems can prepare people to confront those challenges, explaining how the world works and shedding light on some of its features.
Setting Achievable Goals
Another significant reason determining the importance of literature is its ability to show the world as it is and as it can or cannot be. It usually seems natural for people to pursue their ideal life, setting their respective goals. Human beings have always “imagined worlds that are heaven-like, free of all negative aspects of the world” (Tufan 20). However, it is practically impossible to build such a world as the dark sides of life are unavoidable, and people usually have to face them sooner or later. Thus, utopias can demonstrate that state of affairs, illustrating a perfect world to readers and simultaneously explaining why such a world cannot exist. An example of such a utopia is The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, a short story depicting a seemingly perfect city called Omelas (Le Guin 1). However, the story also demonstrates that such ideal comes at a high price since children have to suffer in order for people to be happy. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas explains that there are no chances to build a world without imperfections.
The short story under discussion explores many significant themes, but the most important in terms of introducing literature is separating reality from delusion. If the world cannot be perfect even in a utopian literary work, it evidently cannot be perfect in reality. Tufan claims that once the narrator reveals that children’s suffering establishes happiness in society, “all appearance of the perfect society vanishes” (23). Thereby, the story demonstrates that people cannot be happy and achieve ideal life without paying for that since it is not how the world works. Human beings have to overcome their fair share of struggles and put much effort into their dreams; even then, their lives will not be free from imperfections. It is an essential truth, and literature can teach it to people so they can learn how to deal with difficulties instead of awaiting a life without them. Therefore, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is an excellent book to introduce a person to literature, clearly demonstrating its power.
Overall, the significance of literature lies in its opportunity to explain the way the world works and help readers set achievable goals, freeing them from delusions about life. Two perfect literary works to demonstrate that is The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, written by Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. The former is an example of a story in which the author shares her own experiences through the central character, and the latter illustrates why the world is not supposed to be perfect. The truths are essential to understand in the modern world, which is why these literary works are the best combination to discuss why literature matters.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Everbooks Editorial, 2020.
Le Guin, Ursula Kroeber. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. HarperCollins, 2017.
Manzoor, M. Mohsin, et al. “The Yellow Wallpaper: A Psychoanalytical parallelism between Character and Author.” PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology, vol. 19, no. 1, 2022, pp. 1059-1068.
Tufan, Şevval. “Where Did “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” Go?” Journal of English Language and Literature Club, vol. 1, no. 2, 2019, pp. 20-23.