Novels present different views about life. They often consist of stories about events that may be totally imaginary, or fictionally realistic. Writers usually write novels to present their ideas and comments about human behavior. Three literary works that poignantly shows their authors’ perceptions about life and human behavior are ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’;, Joy Luck Club, and To Kill A Mocking Bird. Flannery O Conner shows what really matters in life in ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’;. The importance of faith and courage in a patriarchal society is imprinted in Joy Luck Club. Lastly, in To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee presents an agathistic assumption about human behavior. Literature is said to be the mirror of human behavior, as a form of art, it can also be used to show the quirks and flaws of society—such is the case in these pieces.
The assumption made by the character in ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’; is that it is enough for a person to appear morally right, as if faith in God is not necessary. The belief that there is no God is presented by the protagonist, Sheppard. For Sheppard, intelligence and morality are the most important values in life. It is not important for him to believe in God. He does not believe in the after life, nor does he believe that he has to follow the Bible. For him, the Bible is another book written by a fanatical society that preceded his. Sheppard introduces that premise that God should be replaced by science by trying to impress its wonders to Rufus John. He reasons that since there is neither physical nor scientific evidence that god exists. Rufus should stop believing in God and the bible. Because of Sheppard’s lack of faith, he gauges his value according to how many people he has helped.
Flannery O’Conner defies everything that Sheppard stands for by taking everything that Sheppard value at the end of the story. RufusJohn, the focal point of Sheppard’s obsession on helping others, shows Sheppard the error of his ways by going back to prison. By refusing to be taken by Sheppard’s persuasion of looking at the world in a scientific viewpoint, Rufus shows that faith is more important than being free—if being free means not believing in God. From the story, Flannery O’Conner takes the side of Rufus. ‘The lame shall enter first…’; is the cry that Rufus yelled at Sheppard. Through this line, the writer says
that it is better to be an outlaw that believes that God exists, rather and being a ‘moral’; citizen, whose morality depends upon outward show of ‘kindness’; that is done merely for the profit of their conscience.
The power of courage and faith are the most poignant values shown in Joy Luck Club. All of the women who came from China are haunted by their pasts caused by the shadows of an extremely patriarchal society. Courage is shown by An Mei and her mother when they ‘…swallowed their tears…’; and drew strength from them. Initiative is shown by Lindo Jong, who tried to work with what she has in order to get her freedom. The major conflict in the novel lies in the mother-daughter relationships. Their daughters, being American borne, do not understand their mothers. The difference between the cultures, and the conflict to follow either of the two causes indecision and confusion in the daughters which causes a rift between them and their mothers.
The common bond between the members of the Joy Luck Club, the struggle against the status of women in a patriarchal society, is the bond that joins them all. In order to overcome their lack of power, they compensated by being courageous. In a way, they all became the ‘turtle’; of their sorrows. The author’s perception of life is shown by the mother-daughter relationships. Tan showed that the daughters would not be able to overcome the struggles in their life until they understand how brave their mothers really are. June’s understanding of her mother’s wish to find her twin sisters enabled her to see the world in her Chinese-American eyes; and through that, she is finally able to appease her inner conflict. Waverly finally realized that only by combining her Chinese and American sides will she be able to move on. Rose and Lena discover courage through understanding their mothers’ hopes. As Amy Tan said at the beginning of the novel, ‘…(mother) you asked me once what I would remember. This and much more.’; Amy Tan sees life as a remembrance of passed stories of courage. She sees life through the annals of history, preserved by the turtles whose shells are strengthened by their own tears.
Another assumption about life that is introduced by a literary work is the assumption of Agathism. Agathism is the belief that although things are not going right at the present the future will hold a much brighter picture. This belief is shown in the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. This novel is about the struggles within a society that is torn by racism and prejudice. These societal evils are intertwined in the very roots of the society of Alabama, the state where the novel is based in. The major conflict in the novel
circles around the struggles faced by two children, Jem and Scout, during a trial. The trial is the case of the Ewells against Tom Robinson. Tom is a black man whose good will inevitably ended with disaster. The
struggle to save him is place upon the shoulders of Atticus. Atticus, a rightful lawyer, tries his best to save Tom’s life although he knows that he is fighting a losing battle. Different values about family and life itself are introduced in the novel. The support that Jem and Scout are being given by Atticus, their Aunt, and their Nanny, Calpurnia, created a balanced environment that allowed both children to grow without prejudice. Their dealings with ‘Boo’; Radley also developed their sense of humanity.
Through this novel, Harper Lee is able to show a glimmer of hope. The novel, which was written in the 1960’s traces the roots of the very evils that the author’s time are trying to fight. The underlying ‘southern’; tradition of prejudice is faced in a manner that hope towards a better future is seen. Through characters like Atticus, who tried to fight for what is right, Harper Lee is able to show that not everybody follows through with the ‘old’; tradition. Miss Maudie’s views about the case also show a swell of hope that is coming from within the system itself. By detailed descriptions, and by the positive portrayal of the major good characters in the novel, Harper Lee shows her stand on the issue. She declares, in her little way that the present may not look good, but seeds of hope are being planted and are sown everywhere. Moreover, it is because of these seeds that a brighter future will emerge—not now, but later.
Faith, hope, and agathism—these are beliefs that are mirrored in these works of literature. All of these beliefs are vital to an individual’s survival in these modern times. Through novels and short stories, the writers are able to relay these important messages. Faith, that the people might know the boundaries between science and God. Hope, which will enable individuals to have courage and ‘swallow’; their tears. Lastly, agathism a dogma that lies causes a balance between optimism and pessimism is the last value related. Life is a healthy balance between of all three, and it is the writers responsibility to remind the readers about all of these beliefs.