Deciphering Literature’s Purpose by Using Hermeneutics
The best thing the world can offer a human is the chance to grow. When I was a child, and like most children I suppose, the thought of growth meant I would fulfill a role that society had deemed appropriate for me. But life has a funny way of skewing the lines in tradition. My experiences with teachers, friends, parents, people from different sexualities, ethnicities, and races have contributed to the person I am today. I am the product of every interaction, action, thought and experience I have ever had, or every experience I have learned about from the lives and perspectives of those around me. Though people come and go, literature always stays, and literature played an intricate part in my growth because literature (when preserved), is forever.
Literature and its foundations are wrapped up in the audience and what they can get out of reading for the audience. Literature’s purpose, therefore, is not to solely instruct or provide pleasure but to instill growth from both emotion and one’s ability to understand and contemplate events in a dynamic fashion. Literature provides the means for an audience to interpret, internalize and grow from the author’s words. Literature’s purpose is distinguished through concepts I have only discovered through philosophical hermeneutics. Just as people grow, change, and experience new perspectives through their time with others, literature act as a crystalized means of the human experience. Therefore, reading literature gives an audience a means of exploration into the past to discover another perspective, whether it is realistically or fantastically written and thus offers growth and experience to those who interact with literature. Ultimately, the purpose of literature acts as a means for growth and development through its interactions with an audience. With literature emulating a unique experience or perspective of the author, literature intertwines a branch of hermeneutics to not only interact with an audience but play an active role in their development.
So philosophical Hermeneutics enables growth through the interaction and intertwining of interpersonal relationships. In works such as Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics, and Speaking (La Parole) details the philosophical ideologies of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Gusdorf are ingrained in the idea of humans displaying growth through self-expansion. This self-expansion includes breaking preconceived frameworks and allowing expansion of horizon through fusion with experience and expressive communication with others, allowing individuals to be their best and current authentic selves. Hermeneutics builds upon the concepts of interaction to build and grow as a human being. These concepts, when intertwined with literature, create growth and change by experiencing change through written expression and experience rather than in-person. This is because literature encapsules perspectives and experiences that an audience could resonate with and ultimately learn from. Therefore, literature’s purpose is intertwined with the growth and development it can provide to an audience.
These concepts can be distinguished using any form of literature because it encapsulates an author’s perspective about a specific subject. Even if you reread a novel, your experiencing with the literature itself will undoubtable change with every new interaction. Thus, literature will endlessly aid to the act of human growth. A clear example of this can be found in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which dictates how power and fear can quickly dismantle society into its most primitive behavior when people lose governed control. Golding establishes this concept by illustrating a timeless adventure about young boys stranded on an island due to an unnamed war. As the boys emulate an image of government and establish a hierarchy in which they will operate until they are discovered, fear and panic soon overtake the boys as talk of a ‘beast’ spreads among them. As this fear grow, reason and the prospects of rescue turn into a power struggle for power, culminating at the cost of several boys’ lives. While these aspects seem like a standard run of the mill adventure gone horribly wrong, it offers a message about the constructs of power and how man’s destruction is the result of his own selfish desires.
The themes explored in Lord of the Flies offers a critique on the manifesting social changes. As themes explore the loss of innocence due to corruption and greed, an audience will read these themes and grow just from experiencing Golding’s novel. The more an audience reads and interprets Goldings work, the more they fuss with the ideals and themes that Golding illustrates and thus grow from his perspective that is encapsulated within the book. If the audience reads Lord of the Flies in 1954, the context of the popular island trope and colonialism is deconstructed by having ‘innocent inhabitants discover a paradise and later taint it with their own greedy desires to exact power over the other boys. With the book offering different perspectives on power and its absolute destruction and they find pleasure through the plot. At face value, the brutality of the boys and their journey is intriguing, and the boys note that their society should have withheld the growing fear and violence because its what the adults do. The idea of watching a seemingly beautiful paradise with no adult supervision and bountiful resources for survival turn into a frenzy of murderous, unadulterated chaos is not only timeless in its presentation, but intriguing in its symbolism. This offers a space for an audience to learn and pick apart an author’s work to indulge in learning from an author’s perspective.
I know people will wonder how much of a difference literature will create and whether or not it can actually instill change within a group of people. The act of hermeneutics, fusing with a narrative and growing from its perspective, or any perspective for that matter can be very trying and confusing. I understand that while literature can show people worlds they could only dream of or give them hope for another day, holding literature or fusing with the author’s perspective too closely can be just as dangerous as it could be beneficial. I find that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf illustrates that point simply enough, showcasing just how literature’s intersection with humans is a breeding ground for change— in both individuals and society itself. Though these moments transpire from the last century, literature still emulates power through its ability to reach an audience. And literature of old still emulates power and perspective over an audience of today. With every new book, I gain a new tool or field of knowledge that I can then use when I approach a different book, or person.
The purpose of literature is directly connected to the lessons and perspectives an author can detail. As a reader interacts and establishes an intimate space to allow for growth and development, the literature gives way for interpretation and growth by giving the audience a perspective to fuse with. Though this aspect of fusion and growth can only be implemented to the audience, the crystallized literature can approach and implement growth through the audience’s interaction with the literature and what it has to offer in both superficial and depthful analysis. I find that literature’s purpose is engrained in how people interpret, grow, and revisit the literary world. These distinguishing conjunctions allow for people to maximize the growth within themselves by having a dialogue with a story the same way they would with another human.
Since human experience growth and development through their dialogue with each other, the philosophical hermeneutics establishes that growth can be pulled from any narrative. This in turn, is the essence of true education, sharing a perspective or narrative with others in hopes that both will progress past the preconceived and preestablished narratives previously established. These reveal literature’s true purpose, to establish a method of teaching through an author’s recanting or narrative, which not only entertains the reading audience, but allows growth through interaction. Literature cements its purpose by aiding individual development for not only the overall of just one individual, but humanity through its continued interactions and fused experiences with literature and the endless possibilities, narratives, and lessons other humans can imagine and share. Thus, it is not only my belief, but of utmost importance, that I remind others that while we can learn a great deal and grow through each other, literature can not only offer similar results, but play an active role within our development.