Functions of Literature
Literature serves various functions and holds different roles within society. Different ideologies and perspectives provide insights into the significance and impact of literature.
1. Ideologies on the Roles of Literature
According to the Marxist ideology, literature is considered a form of social consciousness, reflecting life in all its aspects. Literature explores human emotions, needs, relationships, contradictions, and responses to society. Its function is to delve into these aspects and examine human experiences comprehensively.
2. Reasons for Reading Literature
People read literature for a multitude of reasons, which can vary based on age, interests, and the type of literature being read.
(i) Pleasure: Reading literature for pleasure is a primary motivation for many individuals. Pleasure in reading can take different forms, including:
- Reading to pass the time
- Finding pleasure in learning about the life of a specific place or person
- Enjoying the arrangement of words and moral insights
- Deriving pleasure from comedic and humorous stories
(ii) Information and Knowledge: Literature is also frequently read for gaining information and knowledge. It can provide possible solutions to personal problems by presenting characters in books who face similar challenges. Literature enables readers to understand situations they might not otherwise comprehend in real life. Some critics argue that the true purpose of literature is to instruct and delight, offering knowledge along with a sense of enjoyment.
In summary, literature fulfills various roles within society:
(i) Education: Literature educates people by shedding light on existing social, political, and economic systems. It prompts readers to analyze and reflect on the messages conveyed, such as the play "Three Suitors One Husband."
(ii) Cultural Expression: Literature, like language, is an integral part of culture. It reflects the lives and cultural heritage passed down from one generation to another. For instance, the story "Hawa the Bus Driver" conveys a particular culture or explores men's beliefs towards women.
(iii) Entertainment: Literature as an art form offers entertainment that appeals to human lives and brings pleasure to readers. Stories like "Kalulu the Hare" may contain elements that make readers laugh or experience enjoyment.
(iv) Influence: Literature is designed to influence readers by instilling revolutionary ideas and fostering different ways of thinking, particularly positive and sustainable concepts. For example, after reading "Three Suitors One Husband," readers might consider the appropriate way of life for Atangana's family or reflect on the influence of "Unanswered Cries" on societies practicing female genital mutilation.
(v) Language Development: Literature utilizes language and contributes to the development and improvement of a particular language. It enhances all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Literature also expands vocabulary and improves grammar. For instance, readers may encounter sayings in "The Lion and the Jewel" or encounter specific vocabulary items in "Fast Money."
(vi) Liberation: Literature has the power to liberate individuals and awaken them to unfavorable conditions or injustices in society. Stories like Olabisi's life in "Unanswered Cries" can raise awareness and encourage people to reject harmful traditions. Reading various literature about women, such as "Hawa the Bus Driver" and "Mabala The Farmer," can challenge societal perceptions and acknowledge women's abilities.
(vii) Critique: Literature serves as a tool for societal awareness and criticism. It highlights societal evils and injust ices, prompting people to take necessary action. For instance, the novel "Passed Like a Shadow" criticizes the loose behavior prevalent in the era of the HIV/AIDS disease, while "Unanswered Cries" critiques societies that practice female genital mutilation in certain African communities.