Human values in Literature


Smt.B.Bhavani                                                                                                                           Lecturer in English,                                                                                                                         VSM College,                                                                                                                   Ramachandrapuram,                                                                                                                           E.G.Dt.                                                                                           email:[email protected]                                                                                                  Mobile no: 8331095730                                                                                                                                              &                                                                                                                                 Dr.G.Anjaiah,                                                                                                                       PRINCIPAL                                                                                                                                     SAMD College of Education for Women,                                                           Rajamahendravaram, EG.Dt                                                               Emailid:[email protected]                                                                                     Mobile no: 9491385427

“The World is in Need of an Universal Culture, if not in Literal Terms, at least in Terms of Thought and Values”                                                                            …. Mc Ivar

Literature does not grow by spontaneous action.  It is the product of men and women who made it out of their lives.  They are real persons of flesh and blood who loved and worked and agonized as men have done in all ages.  Matter and expression being no longer thought of a part, as things which have no connection or at most only an accidental one, style will become for us a real index of personality, and the way in which a writer expresses himself a commentary upon what he says. Literature says Cardinal  Newman  himself  a  great master of  style is  the  personal use  or exercise  of  language. That this is so as proved from the fact and the realities of life that one author uses it so differently from another. While the many use language as they find it. The man of genius uses the values of life according to his own peculiarities.  The throng and succession of ideas, feelings, thoughts, imaginations, speculations, which pass with him the abstraction, the juxtapositions, the comparisons, the discriminations, the conceptions which are so original in him his views of external things, his judgments upon life, manners and history, the exercise of his wit, of his humor, of his depth of his sagacity. All these innumerable and incessant creations, the very production and throbbing of intellect, do the illustration forwards.

The early literature had the public element rather than the individual self.  There was the prevalence of group-life.  The group-consciousness was in the increasing.  The centre of interest in most present Hebrew literature was not the individual but the family or the community.  There is no true understanding of that literature possible unless this idea is kept always in mind.  Hebrew lyrical poetry is communal in character rather than personal.  The entire Hebrew attitude towards life, Hebrew patriarchal notions of family stability as against personal immortality, and early Hebrew moral theories regarding communal and hereditary responsibility and sensational suffering, were also based upon the formation of the community as the centre of life and the point of disappearance.  In other early literatures, also the origin of the lyric must be sought in efforts to express the emotion of the group, not which of the individual genius was flooded by tradition and convention.  There was the absolute want of individuality in the domain of literature and art.

Thus literature is simply a mirror of life, a reproduction and obviously a social document. Literature is the progressive revelation, generation by generation, age by age of a nation’s mind and character. Literature is the representation of social life. The quality of literature is intimately connected with the quality of the life that it reflects. Literature is always a reflection of life which takes for granted a social background. Saratchandra, for example, is apparently on the side of progress, he brings a rare gift of sympathy to the understanding of men and women who are victims of social injustice. He falsifies the trend of social developments as emerging out of contemporary conflicts. This is likely to stand in the way of his future position. The writer must be quick to discern, and objectively present the real trends in social life, the direction towards which society is moving. That is why a great writer becomes something of a prophet with extreme Human values.  Shakespeare at once crossed the boundaries of his age. Milton revolted against his age.  Pope is the product of his age however he gave new morals to the king’s queens, nobles and the gentry. French Revolution influenced the Romantics. All the romantics of nineteenth century were highly imaginative but they were realistic in tone. As they long for new hopes, ideals and aspirations. Thus the relation of society and literature is inseparable.

Studying literature our first business is to enter into the spirit of our author, to penetrate into the vital forces of personality. Matthew Arnold has also given his view in favour of the expression of personality: While nature to Wordsworth has a moral and inspirational message, Shelley does not find any such divine message in nature.  His west wind attracts him mainly as the embodiment of unlimited power and unrestricted freedom.  Shelley is saturated with endless passions to regenerate humanity.  Wordsworth aims at becoming the teacher of mankind.  But he lacks the fire and intensity of Shelley who was quite impatient with prevailing social and religious institutions and conventions. Shakespeare sweeps him aside with him aside with his more than human impersonality.  Poetry is to seek for human emotions to express, it discovers the perverse.  The poet is not to find emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all.  And emotions which he never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him.  Consequently, we must believe that emotions recollected in tranquility are an inexact formula.

A true poet cannot define anything well, without communicating it to others.   In other words, art presents experiences which have value for all.  But the experience he enshrines in his work is something that he prizes, because it has brought him a keener insight into life-his own life and others because by it he has awakened to nuances of beauty in nature and man, to the obscure joys and sorrows, to the mystery, the pathos and humor, the ironies in the corner of the world he has gazed at intently.  He may prize the experience unconsciously.  When he does so, could he prize it only for himself? In every aesthetic enjoyment there is a self-reference and other-references. To conclude literature has two –fold appeal. First it reflects some human values in life and secondly it reveals the personality of the writer in creating that art. The elusive and mysterious and many-sided personalities of Shakespeare and Shaw can be reconstructed from their plays.  In other literature of the world also, the same enlightenment about authors is available in their works. Rabindranath Tagore’s burning annoyance against social inequality, and his sympathy for the victims of social injustice and caste barriers in his novels and short stories, have stimulated everywhere a realistic handling of social issues in poetry, drama and fiction. Tagore famous Post Office ends by saying that humans often fall into hope than seeing the reason, and long before we realize, disappointment becomes too hard to handle. These are nothing but the Human values in pragmatic life.
The Ramayana is not only the epic of Rama and Sita but also a exposure of the mind and heart of saint Tulsidas who was capable of painting Sita as the ideal of Indian womanhood.  Sevasadan, Godan, Ghaban and the rest of the novels of Premchand bring us into the presence of the old Munshi, living in grinding poverty, his heart bleeding at the plight of the Indian peasant, his fury provoked at social ills like dowry, child marriage, and ban on widow re-marriage. These pictures of man behind the books can be multiplied endlessly and they would form a wonderful and varied galaxy of men and women who saw interpreted and portrayed life and their own selves in a manner which had made them immoral and a proud heritage of mankind for all time to come. Thus the function of literature, when comes to the manifestation of basic class-struggles obviously relates to the HUMAN VALUES.


Reference works:

  1. Quintessence of Literary Essays,1963Bright Careers New Delhi.
  2. M.P.Bhatia, 2006, Advanced Essays M.I.publications,Agra
  3. Swami Vivekananda,2008, The India Eternal, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of culture, Kolkata.

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