‘Art is not only a mirror to reflect the society but a hammer to shape it’
Literature is the reflection of the society is a fact that has been on the earth for quite a few centuries. It was Plato who first pointed out a relationship of co-dependence between literature and society. Plato was a Greek philosopher who with teacher Socrates and student Aristotle laid the philosophical foundations of western culture. Though Plato must have pointed it out, the beginning, however, it said to be Madame de Stael’s paper published in 1800’s Paris. Even Joseph Hermann Muller, an American genetist mentioned 15 years ago that Art is the product of its age.
Literature is said to be the body of written works produced in a particular language, country or age. Literature, through its written body of works reflects upon norms values and various ethos of culture. It shows class struggle and certain types of social “facts”. It reflects the society and social patterns with all its good values and its ills, for what is society, nothing but a voluntary association of people with common traditions and institutions but distinguishable standard of living.
Literature, as an imitation of human actions often presents a picture of what people think, say or do in society. In literature we find stories designed to portray human life and action through some characters who by their words, action and reactions convey a certain message for the purpose of education, information and entertainment. It’s impossible to find a work of literature that excludes the attitudes morale and values of the society, since no writer has been brought up completely unexposed to the world around him. What the writers of literature do is transport the real life events of the society into fiction and present it to the society as a mirror with which people can look at themselves and make amends where necessary. Literature thus is not only a reflection of society but also serves as the corrective mirror in which members of the society can look at themselves and find the need for positive change. In it s corrective function literature mirrors the ills of the society with the view of making the society realize its mistakes and make amends. It also projects the virtues or he good values in the society for the people to immolate. In 1949, America was suffering from the victimization of workers by the capitalist employers. Arthur Miller came out with the bourgeois tragedy, “The death of a salesman” which exposes the inhumanity of some employers towards their employees, whom they use and dump without the regard of their well being. Ms. Stowe’s “Uncle tom’s Cabin” was directly responsible for the movement against slavery in literature and life in USA. Similarly the pre-independence Indian society is reflected in literary works like Raja Rao’s Kanthapura or RabindraNath Tagore’s poetry and short stories. Our own modern India can be seen in works of Chetan Bhagat, Durjoy Dutta, Nikita Singh and other upcoming writers. The society of diaspora is provided with its own reflection in works that of Sir VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahri or as old as Dante Alighieri the Author of “Divine Comedy” who was exiled from his home in Florence, Italy. The society, during Dante’s lifetime used to exile or kill people who were against the ruling class or their views. Poets such as TS Eliot, WH Auden, Dylan Thomas etc reflected in their works the society disillusioned and dissatisfied with world. They represent the society with a shaken faith in god and life due to the catastrophe of world war I. if we take any work of literature, from any part of the world during any age or period, the result will be similar. Each work represents and reflects the social political economic or religious situation of the society in which it is said.
Literature is thus reflection of the human habitat; a manifestation of change in man’s perspective, crystallized and evolved with successive passing age.
“Poetry is, at bottom, a criticism of life”, said Matthew Arnold
“Literature is the brain of humanity” were the words of Versefield