How can literary works be the ‘mirror’ of life?
The assertion that “literature is the mirror of life” may be strange. One might ask the question of how works of literature, where there is a clear sequence of action and an interesting story, can be the “mirror” of everyday life.
Indeed, life is often boring and could feel pointless on several occasions. Literature, however, can be said to be the mirror of life because it reflects and comments on aspects of things people encounter in their daily lives.
The novel The River and The Source (1994) by Margaret Ogola, reflects life despite the fact that its world is alien to the modern human being. One of the main characters Becky struggles with issues like family, career, love and death.
These are familiar concepts to everyone who is alive today. Becky’s struggle reflects how many teenagers react to life’s difficulties today. She is easy to identify with, although her world is exotic because she is human. She loves. She is afraid. She does not understand exactly how to handle the stirrings of first love.
The same is true when going centuries into the past. The play Hamlet by Shakespeare (between 1599-1602), for example, offers not only the story of a prince and his dead father, but also how this prince is human. His reaction to his father’s death is utterly human. He experiences grief, pain and loss like any son who loses a father.
When he realises his father has been murdered, he is outraged and wants revenge, which is another human reaction to life experiences. So, although the worlds of royalty and Shakespeare’s time are alien to the literature world today, Hamlet’s feelings are not. This is why Shakespeare’s work can be regarded as relevant even in years to come.
Life panoramas are still reflected in works of fantasy and horror. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), the vampire is a creature of fiction. However, the feelings Mina (the character) experiences when Lucy dies or when Jonathan returns ruined from his visit to Dracula’s castle are very human. As human beings, readers can identify with these feelings. As such, Mina is a reflection of life and how we experience it.
Okot p’Bitek (1931-1982), a Ugandan poet, who achieved wide international recognition for Song of Lawino, a long poem dealing with the tribulations of a rural African wife whose husband has taken up urban life and wishes everything to be “westernised” can demonstrate that poetry is perhaps the type of literary effort that best reflects our life.
Song of Lawino (like any poetry work) originally penned in Acholi language , self-translated to English, and published in 1966, shows the reader how the poet sees life. The poet asks the reader to enter his world and share it with him. In fact, this is what any author does, regardless of the specific thing being written.
Literature holds up the mirror of other people and other lives to the life we as readers live. This reflection can teach, inspire and make us laugh, or horrify us. This is the beauty and the joy of reading.
Oscar Okwaro Plato is a communication consultant.