Art has been an essential part of the human life since the beginning of civilisation. This means that we have already created and admired art for tens and thousands of years. Even though art is closely associated with life, it is usually considered to be of peripheral importance when seeking the truth. An interesting paradox is imposed by the quote art is considered to be a lie, which again brings us nearer to the truth. This seemingly contradictory statement could be best explained in relation to the art of words literature.
How can literature be considered to a lie? Even though the word lie usually carries a negative connotation, lying in itself is inevitable in the context of literature. All fiction for example can be considered a lie, since the stories depicted are the invention of the authors. Even the plotlines of realistic novels are made up. It is simply impossible for writers to create literature without providing slightly enhanced or altered information. This is mainly due to the fact that since literature is an art form, it has to possess certain aesthetic value, which is achieved through the usage of literary devices. Even writers of non-fictional prose use abundance of literary devices in order to make real life events more vivid for the reader. Maya Angelou s autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings describes her coming of age story in the racist-ridden America through the heavy use of highly poetic and figurative language. The sentence: The giggles hung in the air like melting clouds that were waiting to rain on me. , is a good example of language accentuating the high spirits of the protagonist.
Though literature is not completely truthful, how can it still have the ability to bring us nearer to the truth? Even though there can be factual errors, artistic enhancement of some aspects, or completely made up settings all literature still conveys a certain message, which the author believes to be of great importance. Through the fabrications and alterations of literature, the author shares with the readers his true beliefs. George Orwell s novel Animal Farm seems at first sight to be a fable about farmyard animals, but in reality the allegorical novel depicts the power struggle in the USSR after the death of Lenin. Orwell himself actually was a socialist, but he was truly disappointed in Stalin s style of socialism. Thus he used his novel to inform a greater audience of the failures of USSR. Orwell expresses his judgement on the flaws of the Soviet communism through the prism of satire. The publishing of Animal Farm brought many people nearer to the truth, as before the true state of socialism was mostly unknown about.
On the other hand, it can be argued that in some cases, literature can really deceive us. Romance novels in particular are deemed by many as the source of false expectations and assumptions. Pride and Prejudice, which is one of the most loved romance novels of all time, can be considered a prime example of the misleading nature of literature. Mr Darcy, the male protagonist of the novel is women's favourite fictional romantic icon. Although he is introduced in the novel as being arrogant and conceited, he manages to redeem himself completely by the end of the novel. And that mainly due to his love for Elizabeth, who condemned his brash behaviour. The following pursuit of Elizabeth has made women around the world be on constant lookout for Darcy s real-life counterpart. The near perfect depiction of Mr Darcy has made some women set too high standards for men. Women tend to let their emotions cloud their reasoning skills and fail to realise that no man cannot actually live up to those high standards. Since those women only have one man in mind, they are not giving opportunities for other men who are interested in them. When these women do not abandon their false expectations about men, they are at great risk of ending up alone.
People should use logical reasoning in order to differentiate between the false and the truth depicted in literature.
Linguist Noam Chomsky has said that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology. The knowledge issue established here is how can literature teach us more about the human life and personality than scientific psychology?
Scientific literature offers ample scientific data to prove its universally applicable theories of how the human mind works. Fiction on the other hand brings the theories into life and provides more in depth information about an individual s experience.
No matter how meticulously carried out, psychological studies seem rather superficial compared to the depth in which human life and personality are depicted in novels.
Fiction has the ability to delve into the human mind extensively. Although people are a close-knit group, who cannot survive a day without communicating with each other, we are still left unaware of what the thoughts of other people or which exact emotions they are going through. This is why the comprehension of another human being is often so strenuous. Although we can witness the actions of others, we have no idea of the incentives behind them. Fiction is what gives humans an otherwise unfeasible opportunity the insight to the inner most thoughts of other people. Through reading a novel from the perspective of another person, the readers just cannot help but to imagine themselves to be in the shoes of the character. This in turn makes the readers comprehend the actions of the same character. Vladimir Nabokov has successfully managed to make the readers of his novel Lolita to apprehend the controversial protagonist Humbert. He is a man in his thirties who falls in love with a 12-year-old girl Dolores Haze. People who have not read Lolita would immediately pass judgement on him, but the readers of the novel who are abreast of his thoughts, fears and miserable past, understand why the character is so infatuated with the girl. Through the masterful depiction of the inner-struggles of the protagonist, author has even managed to create empathy towards him.
Language is another factor why people can learn more about the human nature from novels than from scientific psychology. When people have the opportunity to choose between science and fiction, they are ore inclined to choose the latter because of the more entertaining and simpler text. Scientific literature is quite restricted also language wise. It has to be written in an objective tone to avoid any bias. The usage of terminology and 3rd person narrative usually makes the scientific text quite impersonal and tedious to read. Fiction on the other hand is written using emotional language, which has the ability to firstly attract the reader to the story and then stir up the readers emotions about a matter.
One of the main reasons why fiction manages to make readers comprehend such controversial characters like Humbert is the excellent use of language. Nabokov has made Humbert speak in romantic, aesthetically pleasing language, which has the effect of making the character even more pleasant for the reader. The plentiful usage of literary devices even manages to distract the reader from the actual meaning of his words. The poetic language in which, Humbert describes his feelings towards Lolita makes him seem less of a paedophile, but more of an admirer of her. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lolita.
Even though literature like the rest of art can in some ways be considered a lie, because of the pursuit of aesthetic value, it still possesses the ability to provide the truth for the reader. Through the veiled stories, writers manage to voice their opinions about certain matters. The readers of the stories are provided with new truths. However literary lovers should not believe in everything that has been written down. People have to utilise the skill of reasoning while reading anything. Otherwise are false expectations quick to come. Even though scientific psychology might seem to be the primary source for gaining knowledge about the human nature, in reality literature is what teaches us more about it.