LIght Switches and Button Pushers

April 5, 2008
By Tre'vell Anderson, Columbia, SC

Books, novels, articles, stories, and poems - No matter what they are called, all have a lasting effect. All works of literature evoke emotions from their audiences. Some can make one angry and furious while others cause depression. Other works inspire readers to partake in an out of body experience or to take a specific stand on an issue. Literary works are like control panels, they can flip one’s switch or push one’s button, either way, an effect is inevitable.

Francine Prose’s composition I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read draws emotions from its readers through critiques of well known authors and books. From a discussion of this composition, some of Mrs. Johnston’s Advanced Placement Language and Composition class agreed with Prose’s assertion and were elated by her keen sense of grammatical errors; however, the majority became angered at the criticism of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. When asked how I felt, I quickly shot off my opinion of the ideas Prose expresses by stating many comments and questions that brewed within other students – Who does she think she is? What makes her right and Angelou wrong? These questions and many more helped to develop and solidify the emotions of the audience after reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read.

Works of literature also have the ability to make one sympathetic. Reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, learning of the cultural obstacles Hester encountered, appeals to its audience emotions. Mrs. Johnston’s class became sympathetic when it came to discussing Hester’s hardships. Countless students expressed their sympathy for Hester through the class’ discussions of the novel. I found myself feeling sorry for Hester and the situation she was in. Other literary works, like To Kill a Mockingbird, lure sadness and sympathy from the depths of the reader’s heart. The character, Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, is set up to be a replica of the usual neighborhood loner. The reader becomes sorry for Boo as his character develops. Personally, this book caused me to change my outlook on life and those who may not be popular or well known, if at all, by their peers. This shows the long-lasting effects that certain books may possess.

Inspiration is another effect that accompanies the reading of specific compositions. From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she inspires most of her readers to overcome the obstacles of their life and become someone great. Books reviews on speak of the effects Angelou has had on her readers. Numerous read of the inspiration Angelou has been and how her works have brought them through their trials and tribulations. Another work that evokes inspiration is the poem Black Statistic by Kirk Franklin. Franklin addresses many statistics of African-Americans, most that remain true, and one’s refusal to be bound by them. After reading this poem for the first time, I found myself influenced by its ideas and identifying with its concept. I began reorganizing and redirecting my life into one that I, and my family, could truly be proud of; this poem inspires and keeps me on the right track. It makes me determined to set an example for the next generation. Works such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Black Statistic require and aim for its audience to be inspired and deeply affected through the ideas put forth within it and to produce actions that reflect this effect.

Books effect all in some way or another. Do not be hesitant. Let the words of art move throughout. Whether one is indifferent or depressed, elated or furious, emotions are withdrawn from the audience and influence their behavior and actions. Books have the God-given power to have spellbinding, long-lasting effects. Read a book and judge one’s alteration in attitude and action. It is impossible not to notice a difference. Paxton Hood said it best, “Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep, for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.”

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