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April 18, 1999.
Zeljko Koljesar

 

 

The Power of Reading

 


What makes life such an exciting ride filled with hills and valleys? It is the inevitable fact that people are not born with the knowledge they need to survive. By learning a way through life the journey becomes more enjoyable. One is forced to encounter a variety of experiences on the challenging course of life. These experiences can be obtained personally or through others, while literature can also be a valuable source. When settled into a role of a main character of a novel or a short story one may discover the essential elements in personal life, enrich one's own personality and gain knowledge that provides a wider perspective of life.

By carefully reading short stories and going through experiences along with the hero one can learn important aspects of life. Every human understands life uniquely. Maybe the most important element are the personal morals one should use as primary rules to follow. When obeying these principles one progresses forward, molding the identity in a way he/she wishes. In Fitzgerald's story, "The Ice Palace" , Sally Carrol is unable to adapt to a new environment because of the breaking of several beliefs of her life.

"…Oh, I want to get out of here! I'm going back home. Take me home" - her voice rose to a scream that sent a chill to Harry's heart as he came racing down the next passage - "to-morrow!" she cried with delirious, unrestrained passion - "To-morrow! To-morrow! To-morrow!…" (page 24)

If every person's morals would reflect only the positive side, the world would definitely take a step closer towards the state of perfection. The love between two people is certainly necessary in life. Since humans are the only species that can reveal their true feelings, friendships and love connections are born every day. Relationships play a significant role in life because they can enrich one's spiritual side. In the story, "The Long Way Out", written by Fitzgerald, Mrs. King suffers from schizophrenia or "split personality." She survives through each day by hoping that her husband, who unfortunately dies in a car accident, will return and they will be together again. Familial love can definitely be fulfilling in life. One can return to parents who are usually willing to support their children in every situation. Then, after this individual creates a family, the children's success continues to advance and bring joy to that particular individual. The family bond certainly appears to be the strongest. The main character, Charlie, in a short story called "Babylon Revisited" , wants his daughter back after being reckless and losing his wife.

"…He would come back some day; they couldn't make him pay forever. But he wanted his child, and nothing was much good now, beside that fact. He wasn't young any more, with a lot of nice thoughts and dreams to have by himself. He was absolutely sure Helen wouldn't have wanted him to be so alone." (page 230)

Therefore, after learning few other aspects of the personal life and being aware of them it is fascinating how they can lead one through the struggle of life.

By becoming the main character for a short time, one is capable of comparing personal values to those of the character and hopefully shaping one's own personality closer to the ideal. The first fact every person should realize is to make the life as amusing as possible. With this in mind one will be able to learn much more with the enjoyment around. In Hemingway's short story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", Harry doesn't know what his goals of life are. He becomes involved in actions that he enjoys, but which are also unacceptable and maneuvers off his initial life direction. Therefore, Harry is then harsh about it towards himself and others and his behaviour is not appreciated. The next fact that greatly affects one's identity is a positive view upon life. Even in the worst event, the positive attitude makes one forget the past and move on to reach that point of success. In Fitzgerald's story, "The Freshest Boy" , the main character named Basil hears an optimistic conversation that totally changes his life.

"…He did not understand all he had heard, but from his clandestine glimpse into the privacy of these two, with all the world that his short experience could conceive of at their feet, he had gathered that life for everybody was a struggle, sometimes magnificent from a distance, but always difficult and surprisingly simple and a little sad. …" (page 207)
When reaching forward, however, every individual should always look back, especially at the historical background. After learning one's own background a great pride can be achieved. This kind of knowledge is what mostly makes people different. Variety of origins also creates one country where these people live to be multicultural and friendly. At the end of the short story, "Fathers and Sons" , Nick's son demands to visit his grandparent's tomb in order to show his respect.
"…"Well, I don't feel good never to have even visited the tomb of my grandfather."

"We'll have to go, Nick said. "I can see we'll have to go."" (page 64)

After reading literature one can hopefully improve one's own personality. Then, this individual can urge others to take the same route.

As people become older, they generally mature and literature can improve the mental capability to understand life from a positive as well as from a negative view. Life can surely be considered like a game of chess. If one can predict moves beforehand, the unnecessary mistakes can be eliminated. When thinking ahead of future consequences, one can possibly avoid them. In a story, "The Killers" , Hemingway writes how Ole Anderson admits that he wasn't cautious and he is in trouble with no way out.

"…"There ain't anything to do now."
"Couldn't you fix it up some way?"
"No I got in wrong." He talked in the same flat voice.
"There ain't anything to do . After a while I'll make up my mind to go out."…" (page 79)

Mostly everyone's goal is to make the ride of life as smooth as possible. Fulfilling the dreams, however, can be done on the corruptive side of the road too. Even though for one person something can be corruptive, for the other one it is perfectly normal. This recalls the importance of personal morals. In the short story, "Fifty Grand", done by Hemingway, Jack, the retiring boxer, bets on the opponent in his last fight where he loses intentionally and earns money. This certainly is not a noble action to take. Then on the other side, when entering this world every human is granted something to start with. One must appreciate what he/she already possesses. Even if it is not the ideal, many other people don't even have that much. The diamond in the story, "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz", represents wealth, both physical and intellectual, that the Washington family already gained. This lack of appreciation leads the family to disaster so they have to restart their lives. If some things are taken for granted, their loss can be enormous. One doesn't necessarily realize how important a living being or an object in his/her life can be. But once it disappears, the significance of it shines through clearly. Hemingway shows this in his story, "In Another Country" , where one major permanently injures his hand and, subsequently also loses his wife too.
"…When he came back, there were large framed photographs around the wall, of all sorts of wounds before and after they had been cured by the machines. In front of the machine the major used were three photographs of hands like his that were completely restored. I do not know where the doctor got them. I always understood we were the first to use the machines. The photographs did not make much difference to the major because he only looked out of the window." (page 70)
As people mature they realize that both, the negative and the positive, aspects of life exist and people can simply become prepared to face each side.

Even though life cannot be perfect, by reading books one will learn numerous lessons and will manage to positively and confidently look at this struggle of life. Literature does provide variety of valuable messages that readers can learn from. Literature also has an important impact in many other areas, such as being a useful vocabulary source or maybe even helping one to learn a new language. In libraries, a number of interesting books are simply waiting to be opened and read by a stranger. Will that stranger be you today?

 

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