As a teenager who harboured a love for books, for words, for the smell of pages inscribed with stories, splashed with imagination, opting for Literature as a subject in school was an assured choice. Yet, there were people who questioned my choice, who warned that achieving a grade might not be easy but I wouldn’t make a retreat. Where else would I get a chance to write about how beautiful Dover Beach was in its message, study how elements in poetry-writing made a few lines carry infinite meaning? Came college and I faced a choice again. Would I opt for the same subject that required double the effort at this stage? First, it was a no. Why risk my other grades for this subject’s sake? Forgo your interests and be practical! But a few weeks went past and I was looking earnestly towards that classroom where minds secluded themselves from the outside world and pored over characters, plots, meter and form. There I was again. Back with the same subject, ignoring the advice of a few, welcoming the encouragement of others.
Perhaps, this reverence and love for Literature as a subject is due to the way my parents and teachers cultivated our mind to enjoy the texts we studied, to feel the characters’ joys, misery, happiness and suspense. I can never forget how reading Macbeth one night for class the next day had scared twelve-year-old me, making it difficult for me to fall asleep. The Yellow Wallpaper was a haunting story in grade ten, giving me a literal nightmare after I had studied it for days. Even when I was reading it for perhaps the twentieth time, the ending gave me a chill down my spine. Advanced Level brought with it the disturbing character of Blanche in The Streetcar Named Desire. Analysing her motives, her actions was as complex as she was. The story of how Vivian Leigh became a bit deranged herself after enacting Blanche is now understandable.
Indeed, studying what great minds have written lets their words, their characters enter your lives like Capricorn does in Inkheart, they become a part of you. You learn more than scansion and literary devices, you learn how humans have different facets to their personalities, you learn that sometimes the flaws in us are what make us human, you learn to put yourself into others’ shoes, you learn to empathise, you learn that sometimes the most cruel of all villains are people wanting to be understood by a kind heart.
As my Literature teacher assures us, ten years down the lane, we will probably forget our Physics formulae but the values and understanding that these texts teach us will remain forever.