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Canonical Literature Essay

2085 words - 9 pages

In ancient times, people learned of the past and of morals/consequences through word of mouth and stories which influenced their daily lives and how they conducted themselves, and today's times are no exception. Through reading canonical literature, generation after generation can read the same story and gain crucial insight to human actions that have affected life currently.
Through reading literature, the reader learns of a legacy set by the people of the past and their decisions. One of the biggest examples in literature is that of the fall of man reiterated from the Bible in Paradise Lost when Milton says, "Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit/Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal ...view middle of the document...

Through reading different books with different viewpoints, political thoughts, and even theological beliefs, literature guarantees its attentive audience the knowledge of life lessons. Possibly one of the biggest being that of free will/thought. As David Denby says, "Don't get sucked in" (Denby 2). Reading literature allows the reader to make their own opinions and see all sides to different political and religious standpoints and allows them to avoid getting "sucked into" the viewpoint of the majority. The Iliad preaches Free Will through the god, Zeus. Even though a lot of the events seem to be predetermined by this god as well as others, it makes it very clear that each character has choices with consequences. "Sucked in" is what Paradise Lost is all about. This epic, allows the reader to get "sucked in" by Satan and his tempting speeches and makes it difficult for the reader to discern right from wrong, especially when a majority sees a situation a certain way, "Thus was the applause they meant/ Turn'd to exploding hiss, triumph to shame/ Cast on themselves from their own mouths" (Milton book X). Milton does this to allow the reader to make the same mistake Adam and Eve made so as to understand why it is important to follow what one stands for, otherwise face problems in the future. As mentioned before, Free Will plays a critical role in literature as depicted in Paradise Lost. Milton compares Free Will to God's foreknowledge of events that will happen and explains the difference. While God knows what will happen, he only knows this because he is aware of what choices individuals are going to make, however the individuals are still allowed to choose their own destiny and pick right from wrong. Although some readers might say the ideas in literature are cheesy or even clichéd, themes in literature prove a point and are something all readers can use as experience for themselves. Achilles' huge ego and his desire for revenge, for example, caused many, many issues in the course of the Troy War, including his own death. Readers can learn from this and add it to their repertoire of their own experiences and lessons learned. It is also said that "books [are] in some way tainted by their association with power" (Denby 3). This is true in that books are persuasive and usually one-sided, however, by reading a variety of literature, the reader becomes well educated in different aspects of politics and religion, and can make their own decisions in life as a result. Thus avoiding just conforming to what the majority deems as the "correct" belief. In Candide, by Voltaire, Voltaire satirizes the world's struggle for power through the pessimism of those who deal with it on a day-to-day basis. Through his main characters, Voltaire shows the worlds' problems affecting the character's actions and decisions. Such as when Candide says to Martin, "You're a bitter man," and Martin replies, "That's because I've lived" (Voltaire 51). By allowing the world to take...

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