We’ve heard it before, said many times, I know I have from a vast variety of people born out of all different sorts of backgrounds and circumstances. Everyone has their own tale to divulge on what fragment of their lives literature has been a part of, made or even saved. In year 9, a fellow pupil threw down their copy of ‘Animal Farm’ in English class one time faced the teacher and said:
‘What’s the point of learning this, I don’t understand it, it’s boring I’m never going to use this in my life, we don’t even have to write an essay on it, so whats the point?’
My English teacher kept a cool head turned round to face the pupil and said definitely:
‘It might not be today you find solace within these pages or even at all, but I guarantee your life will change by one day reading something on a sheet of paper, when that day comes you won’t understand the significance of that scrap of paper, until you broaden your knowledge as to its true meaning. That begins here, with books.’
Naturally, the class laughed at the their peer, myself included, but I’ll never forget that day I sat inside that English room, carefully fingering the edges of the tatty school copy I was given. I didn’t fully understand literature at the time, I guess in a way nobody can define what true literature is, how can we put a definition on something so staggering with such reverence and even an apprehension of some sorts over the mystifying power of it? My question is can literature truly save lives, how much of a part does it have to play in the world?
From my own personal experience I was about 9 when I read ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier and although I didn’t fully understand the context of the book, the messages contained within the pages it, it was as if a switch had been thrown in my head to keep reading. I then read ‘I am David’ By Anne Holm. It wasn’t until I read ‘Whistling for Elephants’ by Sandi Toksvig at 13 that I began to notice a change in my life. Instead of going out I’d stay in and read, I became more mellow and my mother commented on how ‘softer’ I’d become with my speech and how my vocabulary was ever expanding. It was as if I was trying to recreate the characters in the book, the scenarios in the book. Ever since I started to read as a religion I’ve been able to interpret people’s’ character differently, been able to make precise judgements of their actions. I observed my surroundings instead of simply just seeing. More importantly I discovered writing was the key to release my feelings of a childhood blighted my abuse, rejection and scorn and I became less angry knowing I always had something to turn too. I had a universal feeling of belonging and it was as if I’d fallen in love.The world didn’t always make sense to me, neither did the reasons of why man did what they did, but literature was always there to help me understand and my English teacher was right, my life did change through writing on a scrap of paper.
So yes, literature saved me life, and if someone says it changed theirs, I believe them, who am I to interpret how literature and novels have affected a life?