“Does Fiction Civilize Us?” — http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/does-great-literature-make-us-better/—caused me to ponder what is the purpose of reading literature?
Most of us assume that exposure to challenging works of literary fiction is good for us. Does reading about Anna Karenina, the good folk of Middlemarch and Marcel and his friends expand our imaginations and refine our moral and social sensibilities? Does reading literature make us become more caring, wiser people? My response to that query is “I don’t know” but I do believe the purpose of reading literature lies elsewhere. My passion to encourage people to become readers is not driven by an aim to improve them but rather to give a person the experience of reading to understand what we have not dared to consider to see in ourselves but rather what we can see in the characters portrayed.
Reading allows a person to better know themselves. Only then can a person follow the wise counsel of Polonius who said: “To thine own self be true.” An increased self awareness is the gift of literature and to demand that literature also make us better human beings is not an expectation I have for why I read.