When people say that literature is the best criticism of life, they might mean a variety of things. Some people might mean that literature is the best way of showing what life is, in all its endless varieties, in order to better show it. This is particularly useful when it comes to literature which involves people and countries which are far away in either space or time from the person who is reading it, as it can help them to understand the lives of people there. Other people might consider it useful as a means to discuss life in general, and critique it. Literature offers a good place within which to discuss various aspects of life and its injustices in a safer forum than one which is overtly politicised.
This article will look at each of these ideas in turn, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages in both of these ideas.
First, the idea that literature can help people to better their understanding of history and current times is an interesting one for several reasons: one, there are a number of ways that authors and writers can use the idea. Looking at current times, writers can take a look at types of family or styles of living which may or may not be commonly known about in the wider world.
Having books and stories which are set in out-of-the-way places, or which feature lesser-known cultures and family structures can function as a way to help people learn more about the world that they live in, and the other people who share it. Having cultures on display in these books allows people the chance to learn about them and the world, thus broadening their horizons, and perhaps pushing them towards learning more on their own.
The same can be said for historical novels – it is a way of presenting facts which could be more interesting to a majority of people than simply learning about them in history class, and it also has the benefit of showing people in detail what decisions were made for what reasons.
Literary criticism is almost the same idea, but with one major difference: instead of showing readers and critics cultures and lifestyles as an end in themselves, they are shown as a method of critiquing what is going on in the world today. Authors can use a variety of methods for this, but ultimately the point of this type of criticism is to use literary devices as a means of showing how our current systems are working, or not working as the case may be. This type of literature works in both modern, historical, and speculative fiction, though it has been said that speculative fiction was created in part to be able to better showcase criticisms which could not otherwise be made.
There are a number of ways in which literature can be a criticism of life, as was shown in this article. The good critique can be used to showcase cultures and people who otherwise would remain unknown by the vast majority of people, while the bad types can be used to shed light on unsavoury practices and injustices. All types of literature are good for showing that criticism, whether it is good criticism or bad criticism, even if some types are seen as more suitable for it.