Literature: A Tool For Correcting Societal Ills And Teaching Positive Values

Literature is an imitation of life and actions; it mirrors the society with a view to correcting societal ills as well as teaching positive values. The term literature is used here to refer to pieces of writing that are valued as works of art, such as novels, poems and plays. This is to say that literature can be made to perform positive rather than negative functions. Plato, by his criticism of literature as something that releases dangerous emotions, raised an important question about the nature and function of literature in the human society. Plato’s fears were, however, dispelled by
Aristotle, Sidney and other scholars whose in-depth studies provided undeniable facts that literature has its positive sides and can be made to perform positive functions in the human society. This article will in the following paragraphs discuss some of the ways in which literature can be used as an effective tool for correcting societal ills and teaching positive values. One way in which literature can be used to correct societal ills and teach positive values is by rewarding good characters and punishing evil ones in the imaginary world of the writer. It is a fact of human experience that man is imitative in nature and takes pleasure in literature. This implies that the writer can employ the persuasive powers of literature positively, by portraying credible, moral examples of human character, such that the reader is seduced to follow them. Literature can be used to present reality and human experience in a brilliant and convincing way – so much so that the reader is seduced to follow the positive values exhibited by the likable characters in that literary work. If a writer employs the persuasive powers of literature negatively, by producing a literary piece that invokes dangerous emotions in the reader, it is an abuse of literature. Literature, like any other worthwhile human effort, should be both harmless and useful to human life. Imaginative literature has formative, educational and moral value and, when its persuasive powers are employed positively, it can be used to correct societal ills and teach positive values. Literature has a way of teaching with pleasure so that its message gains easy entrance into the reader’s feeling and thinking and thus exerts tremendous impact on his or her world view. Literature capitalizes on the instinct of imitation implanted in man from childhood; thus, literature can be used to facilitate the teaching and learning process. Man is by nature a moral being, which implies that the human mind yearns for what is good and abhors what is bad. Add this to the imitative nature of man and it is easy to understand why people tend to copy the words and actions of the heroic characters that they admire in a work of literature, while shunning the words and actions of the villainous characters. It is the duty of the writer to create and present credible characters whose words and actions are capable of motivating
the reader to speak and act positively. On the other hand, the writer can create villains and use them to exemplify the sad consequences of evil choices. Literature can be used to present relevant and significant ideas – ideas that are capable of improving human life. As its name implies, imaginative literature is about communicating new and exciting ideas. The writer can use literature as a platform for presenting ideas that are capable of facilitating human development. A science fiction writer may create a new world where science and technology have taken the human race to a sickness-free society and death and graves are no longer in the dictionary. Although such a piece of writing obviously belongs to fantasy or the utopian world, yet it tries to explore the possibilities and limitations of science and technology in human development. It tries to pose the question: Can science and technology conquer sickness, ageing and death? Literature can be used to examine the good and the bad in a culture and provide ideas about how culture can be seen as dynamic – discard the bad, retain the good that already exists in the culture and import the good you find in other people’s cultures. Generally, literature can be used to communicate ideas which can translate into improvement in various aspects of human life. Literature can be used to break down gender barriers and give hope to the hopeless. In societies where gender discrimination is still active and where this constitutes barriers to human development and wellbeing, the writer has a duty to use literature as a tool for exposing the evils of gender discrimination and pointing the way towards equal opportunities for all persons, regardless of gender, social class, religion, race, tribe or language. Developments in various parts of the world have indeed shown that the worth of a person is no longer valued by his or her sex but by what he or she can offer the society. In other words, people should be valued according to their competence and performance and not according to their sex. The writer can use literature to enlighten the gender-biased population that the worth of every individual lies in his or her character and not in their sex. The writer can satirize domestic violence against women or even women’s violence against men, as the case may be, and take a swipe on other gender-based injustices. The writer can also use literature to discourage the maltreatment of the widow by her late husband’s relatives, and thus help in educating the gender-biased society about the widow’s right to peaceful life and dignity in the estate which her husband has bequeathed to her. In view of the above discussion, one can conclude that there are indeed so many ways in which literature can be used to correct the ills in societies as well as teach positive values that will translate to improvement in human life. By Abugu Benjamin


Article Written By Abugu Benjamin

An English Language Graduate of Lagos State University, he is the author of many books and educational materials used in schools and colleges across the country.

Last updated on 29-07-2016 3K 0

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