The whole point

13 07 2007

I attended – as I do a lot during the summer (three times a week to be precise) – some theatre-related talks. Today was about outsiders, but some of the comments/questions veered to heroes. I won’t get into too many specifics, but the comment was such that, well, one town had a hero – the specific example was Atticus in Mockingbird – but what about the next town over, what if that place didn’t have an Atticus, or in other words someone to stand up and do the right thing, stand up against the forces of oppressions and risk everything is defense of human values – that kind that we all hope to uphold, if there isn’t anyone like that, how is anything ever to change? In the way it was put, it sounded like quite a negative comment – like the struggle presented in Mockingbird is somewhat futile because there wasn’t an Atticus in every town and thus no progress could be made. Or at least that’s how I took it.

I didn’t raise my hand to respond. Maybe you haven’t been able to tell yet, but I’m the shy kid at the back of the class, speaking only when need be, and certainly not putting myself forward when there are 200+ strangers in the room.

But I had a response. I had one and I probably should have put that hand right up in the air, but I didn’t. So I’m putting it up here now.

I wanted to say, “But isn’t that the whole point?”

Isn’t it that the whole point of literature and drama? The author puts those situations in their novel or on the stage and in so doing many hold up a mirror to us so we can see the flaws, recognize the wrongs and the injustices and then aspire to do better. No, at the time the novel is set and even today, there aren’t enough Atticuses, but seeing him and then seeing that absence in the world or reality around us are we not to try and aspire to that, and be the change that is needed? Does good literature and drama not make us see that? Not all books do, but the best books I’ve read always deal with empathy and with the desire to be better, to at least attempt to be better.

So, to me that’s the whole point.

And I’ll put my hand down. For now.

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