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Is Literature Dangerous?

Updated: 14 hours ago

By Kassy Cevallos
Text posted on October 30, 2022; Photography work added on November 28, 2022
Cover Image Title: Library
Cover Image by: Alice
Classification: Photography
Year: 2022

One morning in my eleventh-grade English class my teacher barged through the door with his books in hand. Without any greetings or salutations, he asked the class one single question that woke us all up from our delirious state: “Is literature dangerous?” With those three simple words, all of us were left perplexed, as it initially sounded like such a ridiculous question. It didn’t make sense for writing to have the ability to bring harm to someone. Especially to those who enjoy reading like me, literature is anything but dangerous. It is a sort of salvation from the real world; an escape if you will. The room was engulfed in silence as we all pondered over similar thoughts.


I was expecting him to wait for someone in the class to answer or perhaps for him to elaborate but he never did. Instead, he asked for us to dwell on it for a while. I went on with the rest of my day plagued by the need for an explanation. The following day came and needless to say, we never got our answer. A week passed and a student finally asked the teacher about it.


"You have the rest of the semester to answer that question yourselves," he said.


A couple of months later, after analyzing various pieces of literature and writing more essays than I can count, I think I have come to a resolution. The simple answer is yes; literature can be dangerous, but how? I'm sure when you think of the word “danger” you don’t associate it with a flimsy piece of paper with words written on it. Well, it’s because writing is subjective. Anything that is written comes from the author's expression, meaning it will reflect their experiences in the world, including their thoughts and feelings. An example is that the space around us is made of air; this is a proven fact. However, if I were to write that the air smells like roses, that's subjective. That statement is based on my experiences with roses and connecting them with the smell I perceived. But it is entirely possible that someone else can say, the air smells like jasmine, another flower, which is also acceptable. The only exception to this statement is scientific papers that contain facts that have been backed up by evidence and proven through years of experimentation, demonstrating their unbiased nature.


Now how does this relate to literature? It goes to show that anybody can write anything they believe is correct, meaning any view or opinion that society has agreed to be wrong can be written as right. Anyone could very well write about how something like stealing is right, even though it's wrong. Since people are easily influenced, if someone were to come across it they may believe that the view is morally correct even if it isn't. You might be thinking there’s no way that somebody would believe in such things simply from reading a piece of text. Humor me and imagine this scenario, if a girl was given a book about how the colour blue is only a boy’s colour, she will grow up believing it. However, if she were given not just that one book but an additional one depicting a girl wearing blue she will realize that it’s just a colour and it doesn’t matter who wears it. This can be applied to just about anything. There are times when I have watched a video about a topic and because it showed a limited amount of information I was misinformed, which led to a negative view. A small voice of a bad philosophy can cause a surge of people who follow the writer’s beliefs to act, possibly resulting in a disturbance in the force.


There’s a well-known quote said by author Edward Buner-Lytton: “the pen is mightier than the sword.” I believe this means that while a sword can only affect one person at a time, a single novel can be touched by so many, causing an uproar of destruction. Now I'm not saying all literature is bad: most of them bring positivity to the world and are a great source of entertainment. We just have to be cautious and ensure that we educate ourselves so that we don’t succumb to negative ideologies.


But then again, this whole essay is my opinion, so am I right? Or am I wrong? I suppose that’s up to you to decide.


* The End *

[Writing Editor: Ayse Nur Sasmaz]

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