A Quick Note on the Importance of Literature

Recently, as an English major, I’ve battled with the idea that what I am studying is pointless. So many other majors deal with helping people, but what will my major ultimately do for others? Sure, my goal is to eventually help teach others about literature, but then what? Then they just have useless information about some dead guy who wrote something hundreds of years ago. I took a film class as a requirement last quarter and it made me wonder why film is something we study. What’s the point of studying film if it’s just another form of entertainment? Then I realized that the same could be said of studying literature. Why does it matter that this person wrote this or that?

After some contemplation and the dreaded thought that my major is useless and irrelevant, I came to the conclusion that it’s important because we can find ourselves in it. When reading a poem or story or book, a mirror is held up as we see ourselves in each speaker or character. In my opinion, we’ve all got a little bit of J. Alfred Prufrock in us; most others just don’t know it. Much like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, I often fear that I am running late, I can sometimes be neurotic like Marcel in Swann’s Way, and although I’ve never killed anyone, I can still relate to Raskolnikov and his attempts in reasoning in Crime and Punishment. I’ve found that I am an amalgamation of various different characters, both good and bad, and that that is where the importance in literature comes from. Finding yourself in the minutest details and realizing the significance of them in your own life in order to embrace them, or even change them if necessary. A lot of other majors seem to be about helping others or making money, but I’ve finally understood that literature is about helping yourself.

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