The Role of Literature in Society
Mario Vargas Llosa's essay "Why Literature? raises several interesting points. He emphasizes the important place literature holds in our society and the ability it has to initiate change. He also states that literature must be radical, rebellious, and extreme to be considered great, and that only those who share in this spirit can truly enjoy literature. It is in these latter points that I disagree. In fact, there are no exact criteria on which literature can be judged, and for that matter, no exact mold that a reader of great literature would fit. What makes great literature great is indefinable, and what makes one capable of enjoying and understanding such works is equally as ambiguous.
There are many great authors who wrote many great books that did not contain a hint of rebellion. The most famous of these is unarguably Shakespeare. There is no other author who has classes taught in every high school in the country devoted solely to his work. Like all other romantic comedies by Shakespeare, the world of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a fantasy of romance, love, humor, music, dance, song, and poetry. It is a wonderful piece of art and literature that does not contain any hint of rebellion or challenge to the status quo. The same can be said for many of Shakespeare's work; his plays were written to entertain royalty and therefore held little subversive material. His work was definitely not the most controversial thing being written at the time, yet we exult his writing today. Even Shakespeare's tragedies, which were not at all light and fluffy could hardly be considered nonconformist. Romeo and Juliet is a classic love story which has touched and moved people for generations. What is so gripping about this tale is the love, the heartbreak, and the loss of life. It also contains a little social commentary, however, its message is not that of sedition.
There is, in fact, a wealth of great authors who