LITERATURE MIRRORS HUMAN LIFE IN GENERAL

MA English Part 2 Notes Essay | LITERATURE MIRRORS HUMAN LIFE IN GENERAL

Literature is the artistic expression of thought, which is replete with feelings and imagination. It is expressed in such a non-technical form as to make it intelligible and give aesthetic pleasure and relief to the mind of the common man. According to Lord Morley, “Literature consists of all the books where moral truth and human passion are touched with a certain largeness, sanity and attraction of forms.” Enables us to look at Nature with new eyes. It interprets with charm of language the experiences and spiritual intuitions of man. In nutshell thought, feelings imagination and beauty of style and form are all equally essential to literature. To quote Lowe’s Dickinson:” to feel, and in order to express, or at least to understand the expression of all that is lovely in Nature, of all that is poignant and sensitive in man, is to us in itself a sufficient end. Arose in a moonlight garden, the shadow of trees on turf, almond blossom, scent of pine, the wine cup and guitar, these and the pathos of life and death, the long embrace the hand stretched out in vain, the moment that glides for ever away into the shadow and hush of the haunted past, all that we have, all that eludes, a bird on the wing, a perfume escaped on the gale to all these things we are trained to respond, and the response is what we call literature,”

Literature has close connection with life. In fact literature is the study of life. The subject matter of literature is the presentation of life. Life provides the raw material by which literature interfaces an artistic pleasure, pattern and form. Literature is the communication of the writer’s novel and unique, experience of life. Thus, there is the vital and intimate connection between literature and life, which is inseparable. Life is not a simple phase. It possesses both depth and comprehensiveness. So literature manifests the subtle problems of life.” It used to be believed at one time that the deepest things in life are those that deal with what we called the eternal verities of life. The idea of God, for example, or of certain moral virtues, were supposed to be external. But experience and a wider knowledge of the changing conditions of social life have shaken man’s faith in the un-changeableness of these concepts. It is found that ideas are rooted in the material conditions of life and the change with those conditions, which are never static. Thus, different people have different ideas, of the Godhead…………. The laws of morality again undergo changes from country to country and from age to age. Hence in the modern times our conception of the depth and profundity does not revolve round this doctrine of eternal verities. We try to understand the forces behind these social, changes; and we understand them as the replacement of the old order by the new. Hence, with regard to literature, our ideas or its value depends on the extent to which it has been able to express the changing conditions of social life; the emergent truths that supersede the discredited falsehood of the past. Great literature always grasps and reflects these emergent truths that rise triumphant over the wreckage of the past. Indeed, literature at its deepest has a revolutionary content, and is violently condemned by unreasoning orthodoxy.”

Literature involves the objective and subjective outlook of the writer. He observes humanity and makes the subjective approach to it. Literature plays a vital part in the life of man. It is the greatest of the secondary sources of sensation.

It makes an intense contribution to the sum total of fact i.e. the joint result of the experience of the individual and of the fact. Thus, there is subjective outlook of the writer upon the world at large. Through literature, we converse with the great dead, with Plato, with Buddha, with Montaigne with Addison. We walk the streets of Babylon, of Athens, of Rome, and of Alexandria. We see great movements, reared ages ago and long since crumpled to the dust. We recreate the life of distant epochs, and thus by comparison gauge the progress achieved by the men of today. Through literature, we learn wisdom from Aristotle, geometry from Euclid, law from Justinian, morality from Hazrat Muhammad” (PBUH) Literature makes the physical features, the inhabitants, the climate, the produce of the antipodes as familiar as those of the neighbouring country. More than this, the masters of the creative literature have made regions of their own which they have peopled with the children of their genius. Thus, the subjective outlook react upon the objective. The knowledge which have gained through our own previous sensations and through literature increases our capacity for understanding the objective world, and high tens and intensifies the pleasure which we derive from the contemplation of work of art or the face of the Nature. It is only by and through the subjective aspect of the world that we can rightly appreciate the objective.

In conclusion, literature is the brain of humanity. Just as in the individual, the brain preserves the record of his previous sensations, of his experience, and of the acquired knowledge, and it is in the light of this record that he interprets every fresh sensation and experience.; so the race at large has a record of its past in literature and it is in the light record alone that its present condition and circumstances can be understood. The message of the senses is indistinct and valueless to the individual without the cooperation of the brain; that life of the race would be degraded to a mere animal “existence without the accumulated stores of previous experience which literature places at its disposal.”

A literary man is as much, a product of his society as his art is the product of his own reaction to life. Even the greatest of artists is sometimes a conscious, sometimes an unconscious exponent of his time spirit. The time spirit is the total outcome, the quintessential accretion of all the political, social, religious, and scientific changes of a particular age. The historical aspect of literature, therefore, minor or unimportant thought, it may be for aesthetic purpose, cannot be totally ignored. According to Hudson, “A nation’s life has its moods of exultation and depression; its epochs a strong faith erroneous idealism, now of doubt, struggle and disillusion, now of unbelief and flippant disregard for the sanctities of existence; and while the manner of expression will vary greatly with the individuality of each writer, the dominant spirit of the hour, whatever they may be, will directly or indirectly reveal itself in his work.”

Thus literature reflects the time spirit. No, writer can escape influence of his age. Every man according to Goethe’s statement, is the citizen of his age as well as his country. Renan remarked: “One belongs to one’s century and race, even when one reacts against one’s century and race.” Thus, literature always expresses the thoughts and sentiments of human mind, which are closely connected with and conditioned by the age. The influence of the age on human mind is due to the fact that the later is constantly influenced by the spirit of the age and reacts to it vividly and vigorously. The reflection of the age depends on the quality of the mind in which it is reflected. If a work of literature is to be judged by the quality of this reflection, it is apparent that it depends on the quality and nature of the reflecting mind. A sensitive mind will be able to render back the slightest shades and nuances and its creation are characterized by delicacy, subtlety and depth.

Literature studied as a reflection of the spirit of the age creates a new spirit for us. With its help, we travel into the minds of other races and the minds of others epochs. Thus it becomes a sort of sociological approach; a supplementary and commentary on history. Once we are steeped in the spirit of a gone age, we are an able to enjoy even archaic books which otherwise would not appeal to us.

Literature is the representation of social life as well. The quality of literature is intimately connected with the quality of the life that it reflects. Literature is always a reflection of life, which presupposes a social background.

“Even when attempts are as sometimes, in recent times, to create an “ideal” literature, something abstracted from life (as a thing of pure beauty it is claimed) even then that attempt reflects the “ivory tower” attitude that is developed in the mind of the artist as a result of excessive sophistication of life in highly artificial society. Such unsocial or anti-social literature are to be regarded rather as intellectual curiosities and aberrations than as the genuine things.” The function of literature, thus comes to the manifestation must be objective in the sense that the writer must not allow his own prejudices to interfere with the truth of his representation. For example, it might be said, as a rule, Shakespeare is conservative in his attitude to social life. He makes no secret of his fear of any change in the existing pattern of human relationship within the framework of feudal organization. Yet he represents with sufficient clarity the influence of the conflict between the vanishing social order and the emerging social order based on individual life, and formation of individual character and ideals. That is why, sharing in popular prejudices, he is truthful in representing the justice of the cause of the opposed people (as in Shylock or Calibaal) or the revolt of the individual against authority. It is this objectivity of vision that has ensured Shakespeare’s supreme position in the world of literature. On the other hand, a writer may be regressive in his outlook, but is unable to shed certain personal prejudices, which are in themselves the accretions of class-consciousness.

Literature is a social phenomenon, using as its medium, language, a social creation. The poet or the novelist is himself a member of society. He possesses a specific social status. He receives some degree of social recognition and reward. He addresses an audience however hypothetical. It is an admitted fact that literature has arisen in close connection with particular social institutions. So literature and society are interwoven both internally as well as externally. A brief study of few poets will confirm this hypothesis:

1.    Chaucer is the representative poet of the 14th century. His masterpiece, the Canterbury Tales, reveals the political, economic and social conditions of the time. This poem has the true colour and aroma of the fourteenth century. He was a spectator, sympathizing with but not sharing the interests of his country. He holds the mirror upto the life of his time. The Prologue to this poem gives us the background of the action and movement of the pilgrims who make up the company. All these pilgrims represent the whole of English society of the fourteenth century. In this respect Chaucer stands on the threshold of anew age although he is the supreme poet of the middle ages. He was directly influenced by his environments.

2.    Spenser is considered as the child of the renaissance and the Reformation. Born in the lap of Renaissance, Spenser’s mental make up was infused with the new spirit. Because of the influence of the new learning, he draws quite freely upon the treatment of classical poets such as Homer, Virgil, Claudius and avid, Being the product of his age, Spenser was not lacking in the defects of Renaissance. This age has certain drawbacks such as exaggeration, differences and prolixity, which are the common literary flaws. The faerie Queen is the outcome of this flaw. It conveys realistically Christian dogmas. It is basically the mirror of Reformation in England. His works had the divergent elements, which could be easily accounted for. But the predominance, which influenced him was that of Renaissance.

3.    “If Shakespeare is an undoubted genius, he was undoubtedly also an Elizabethan hack. He wrote for the stage. The drama at that time was in its infancy, the stage at its crudest, the audience heterogeneous, comprising the nobility and the gentry, the traders and artisans, the students of the Inn Court the apprentices, the peddlers, carriers, porters and what not. He knew how to cater to every taste and that in the same play, and yet it would be the end not a curious medley of hotchpotch, but a superb work of art.” He wrote Hamlet about which Hazlitt remarked: “it is we who are Hamlet.” Similarly Anatole France remarks:

“This Hamlet and we live together. His soul is of the same age as ours. He was a man, he is a man, he will be the whole of man.”

Similarly the works of Milton, Pope, Tennyson and T.S. Eliot mirror human life in general separately. Literature, therefore, is only one of many channels in which the energy of an age discharges itself, in its political movements, religious thought philosophical speculation, art we have the same energy overflowing into other forms of expression. Shakespeare crossed the boundaries of his age, Milton revolted against his age, Pope, though product of his age, gave new morals to the king, Queens, nobles and the gentry. They were the romantics of 19th century and were highly imaginative. Although they were realistic in tone, they were longing for new hopes, ideals and aspirations. What they saw in the society they wrote. Thus, the relation of the society and literature is inseparable. We can, therefore, say quite confidentially that “Literature mirrors human life in general.”

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