In a world where inventors strive to condense nearly everything into the smallest form possible and creativity has been confined to one hundred and forty characters or fewer, literature is rapidly becoming an antiquated method of consuming media. The mere thought of Charles Dickens repulses some members of the youngest generation, assuming they have even heard of him in the first place. However, literature, despite its waning influence, still provides the ideal form of entertainment due to the fact that it develops critical thinking skills and provides a historical background that enables readers to gain insight into what life was like centuries prior.
Literature is most important to me due to the fact that it provides critical thinking skills. Those who read on a regular basis are more likely to have an advanced vocabulary, be able to quickly consume large bodies of text, and also think more critically because literature provides knowledge. For example, someone reading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 would have to think critically when the novel describes the conditions a pilot must meet before being discharged (Heller 140). The conditions are a contradiction, and readers would have to decipher why the conditions were set up this way and whether they were fair to the pilots. Another example would be Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, where one would be hard-pressed to identify dignity with certain social classes. Or, go on a journey of existentialism with Jean-Paul Sartre in No Exit.
Perhaps equally important, literature provides a glimpse into the past, transporting readers to a time that they will never see in person. One can always read a history book, but it does not paint the picture the same way a novel does, providing a look at the setting, people, and social conditions of the time. In Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, he makes readers feel as if they are in eighteenth-century Russia. During the final scene, where protagonist Pechorin attempts to travel as quickly as possible on his horse in order to see the love of his life, one almost feels as if they are watching from the bushes alongside the road when his horse gives out and he realizes he will not make it before she leaves town (Lermontov 425). A scene such as this one can never be duplicated in a digital age dominated by thirty-second YouTube clips.
In conclusion, although many have strayed away from literature in recent years, it still provides invaluable knowledge and unmatched entertainment. The writers who penned classic novels such as War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and A Tale of Two Cities had the type of talent that only comes along once every few generations. Many will continue to discredit literature because it is old, cannot be consumed in one sitting, and is seen as boring by some, but the fact remains that it provides an experience that is uncommon of in today’s digital age.
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961. eBook.
Lermontov, Mikahil. A hero of our time. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1992. eBook.