The Power of Literature

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From Gilbert's and Gubar's article "The Yellow Wallpaper" in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

"When 'The Yellow Wallpaper' was published she sent it to Weir Mitchell, whose strictures had kept her from attempting the pen during her own breakdown, thereby aggravating her illness, and she was delighted to learn, years later, that 'he has changed his treatment of nervous prostration since reading ' her story" (263). 

I chose this passage simply to demonstrate the power that literature has.  So many things have been changed over time as a result of people's writings, in fact, everything has.  When people say, "What good is literature?" a good response would be, "Has anyone in your family ever been deathly ill or even had something minor like strep throat?  Not so long ago, things like strep throat could be (and don't get me wrong, if mistreated can still prove to be) fatal.  It is only because doctors over the years have recorded their findings, and in the case of Gilman that she recorded her findings, that we have the medicine we have today.  We can learn so much through reading.  Although Gilman's style of recording symptoms are in the form of a story, it was still helpful in changing one doctor's way of treating illness.  This singular change, assuming that he's the only one that it impacted, could still make a difference in countless women's lives.  These women may have been saved from disappearing behind the wallpaper that is insanity because of Gilman.  Gilman (since I love superheros, bear with me) used her power to write in order to fix societal problems, like superman used his powers to save the citizens of Metropolis from their own disasters.  Wow!  If only one day I could impact people like that!

What other ways does literature change our world?

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3 Comments

Derek Tickle said:

Your are right!

I think that literature can change or motivate a culture in changing their stereotyping ways.

So how about when you want to give a gift. If someone is having a baby or wedding shower, then you could give them a children's picture book. Many of the literature design for children are great gifts which have a lot of meaning and teachable moments.

I think that children's literature can change anyone and it is a great way to motivate any group of students.

Sue said:

I agree with both of you. Literature, words have so much power. I mean look at journalists, they write to influence people, they want people to think a certain way at certain thing that happend. People have been writing books and stories for a long time about things that will be influenctial in some way, look at Swifts Gulliver's Travels or Animal Farm, both of these are making a bold statement.
Oh and my other point, I think it's really interesting that the woman in the wallpaper was kept from writing, and gilman to some extent (at least about her illnesses). Today its proven that writing our thoughts and frustrations is supposed to help us, I guess this isn't something they realized back then.

Greta Carroll said:

Going off of Sue’s last point it reminds me of the book we read in Literature for Young Adults, Hard Love. John and Marisol both wrote to help them deal with their emotions and also to discover who they were. They wrote their zines more than anything else for themselves; not realizing how many other people would read what they wrote and be affected by it. The other thing I thought was interesting was that in both of Sue’s examples, Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm, the author’s had to hide their real meaning behind fantastical stories. It just goes to show that even things that we take for granted as being very simple to understand (like as Derek pointed out children’s literature) can often be a lot more complex than we think they are.

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Greta Carroll on The Power of Literature: Going off of Sue’s last point
Sue on The Power of Literature: I agree with both of you. Lite
Derek Tickle on The Power of Literature: Your are right! I think that