How Literature Helped Me to Develop a Sense of Social Justice

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Ever since reading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” at age 15, I have developed a passion for social justice because of the class inequality that characters such as Boxer, who epitomise the exploited working-class during Stalin’s totalitarian rule, face.

I appreciate how I can explore my passion through the type of texts I engage with and recognise the importance of context for critical interpretations, especially when considering how these interpretations can change from the time the text was written to today. As a consistently high performing student I hope to study English at Cambridge so I can utilise my existing knowledge of literature into a range of texts from medieval to contemporary society.

My passion for social justice has led to the types of texts I engage with. Canonical writers such as Willa Cather mirrors her own problematic gender identity in ‘My Antonia’, and while her novel may not have been interpreted through a lens of Queer theory at the time she was writing, modern readers would now consider it as a seminal work of gay literature.

While reading Alice Walker’s epistolary novel ‘The Color Purple’ from a feminist lens, I considered Gabrielsen Scholl’s view that “Africans often set up their own systems of oppression that have nothing to do with the oppression that is inflicted by white people”. It made me think about how black women such as Celie suffer mainly under the hands of black men. My independent reading of American literature highlight the human condition, allowing me to appreciate the arduous journeys characters endure such as Celie’s loss of innocence.

Literature in various forms such as in theatre allows me to see literature as a living art. The immediacy and intensity of live performances enhance my knowledge of the plot in a way that simply reading the text could not. For instance while Clytemnestra’s character in written text may come across as a ruthless murderer overridden with envy, seeing her character performed live forces me to think about the emotions that may have lead to her killing her husband, such as her distress from her daughter’s death or her discontent with ancient Greek patriarchy. The fact that different actors playing Clytemnestra may change my view on her is why I believe that literature is not confined by what we read but rather how it is performed.

My personal experiences with texts reflect how we all consume them differently. Thomas Hardy’s ‘Neutral Tones’ captured me because it carries strong emotional appeal into the four short stanzas despite tedious descriptions of ‘grayish leaves’. His use of juxtaposition is what inspires me to appreciate the distinctive writing styles of poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer who uses irony to subtly mock anti-feminist attitudes upheld by men in 14th century Italy in “The Merchant’s Tale”.

Upon attending King’s College London’s production of Sophocles’ tragedy “Antigone”, the lecturer pointed out how women in the plays from this epoch are dehumanised; their normative status is that of absence despite Antigone being the play’s protagonist. I noted that while an ancient Greek audience may resonate with the identification of women with evil, a modern audience may appreciate their attempt at subverting patriarchy. I look forward to applying my ability to conceptualise ideas through different critical lenses in university.

I spoke at the ‘Belonging’ conference alongside Michelle Obama at my school; hearing her insightful words on the power of representation inspired me to become a founding member of an Islamic Society at my sixth form. We deliver weekly sessions on Islam to empower students to embrace their identity. Having recently invited the founder of the Ramadan Tent Project for a seminar, we discussed mindfulness and its impact on our spirituality. I look forward to making proactive changes within the university community and hope to conceptualise meanings in texts from a range of literary periods and contexts.

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