How authors attempt to change society Human beings have enjoyed the pleasures of reading for a long time. Several works, written thousands of years ago are still extremely popular. With literacy rising rapidly over the last few decades, more people can now enjoy the pleasures of reading, as is described by a historical perspective, literacy levels for the world population have risen drastically in the last couple of centuries. While only 12% of the people in the world could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 17% of the world population remains illiterate. (Roser)Coupled with easier accessibility provided by digital media and falling prices, a large number of people are more easily able to access their favorite books, though a faster lifestyle, and other forms of entertainment present challenges. This can be seen in the graphs, that show both a rise in the number of people who read digital books, while also showing that the percentage of people whose regularly read has been declining at a slow rate. According to, “material is available in a number of formats and through a range of digitally connected devices” (Perrin). Authors have different motivations for writing books. Some might want to just entertain their readers, some might want to inform them about some issues, while some others may want to persuade the readers in some way. Many authors also have a parallel aim. They want to influence and change society. While their books may often be read purely for their literary merit, and entertainment or informational value, there is often an undercurrent of an effort to change the society for the better. This paper examines several texts and analyses the authors’ attempts to change society.The texts range from ancient myths to recent literature; from accounts of recorded history to fictional societies, existing in a future time. This range highlights that such efforts by authors are not recent in origin. Additionally, this consistency over different geographies and time, also highlights that the challenges are seen earlier still exist, and are likely to do so in future.This paper is organized into multiple sections. Each section highlights one of the themes of the texts. It lists examples from different texts that relate to the theme and makes an argument as to how this relates to the authors’ attempts to influence and change the society.CELEBRATION OF HUMAN SPIRITOne theme that can be seen in many works is the celebration of the human spirit, an indefatigable zeal to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. While seemingly a personal trait, it is used by the authors as a guiding beacon to suggest that human beings, and by extension the society, have the capacity to overcome challenges that may seem insurmountable. At no point, should they give up hope, or stop putting in efforts, since honest effort will usually be rewarded.This can be seen in ancient texts like the Greek myth Odyssey where Odysseus overcomes the wrath of the mighty gods and several challenges they throw at him to reunite with his family:Because they are dying of starvation, Odysseus’s men disobey his orders, and shortly after they land, they eat the sacred cattle of the sun god, Helios. When they set sail again, they are punished by death—a thunderbolt from Zeus destroys their boat and all the men drown. Only Odysseus survives. (Homer 46)In the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, Daedalus, along with his son Icarus, is able to fly away from the labyrinth, where they were imprisoned by the angry king Minos, “Daedalus and Icarus managed to escape the Labyrinth and flew to the sky” (The myth of Daedalus and Icarus). In the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus is not only able to fight and kill the dreaded beast Minotaur, but is also able to escape from the labyrinth, “Theseus managed to kill the Minotaur and save the Athenians, and with Ariadne’s thread he managed to retrace his way out” (The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur). Similar themes can also be seen in more modern literature. In The Pearl, Kino is determined to educate his son, and provide for a decent life for him, “But Kino’s face was set, and his mind and his will were set. ‘This is our one chance,’ he said. ‘Our son must go to school. He must break out of the pot that holds us in'” (Steinbeck 14). In The Hunger Games, Katniss not only wins the games but refuses to let the games or the capitol destroy her caring and compassionate nature. She befriends Rue from another district, and ensures that both Peeta and she survive at the end:The frantic voice of Claudius Templesmith shouts above them. “Stop! Stop! Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victors of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, and Peeta Mellark! I give you — the tributes of District Twelve!” (Collins 339)Similarly, in Fahrenheit 451, Montag not only destroys one hound but is able to trick another, to ensure not only his own survival but also that of his friend, Faber:He was three hundred yards downstream when the Hound reached the river. Overhead the great racketing fans of the helicopters hovered. A storm of light fell upon the river and Montag dived under the great illumination as if the sun had broken the clouds. He felt the river pull him further on its way, into darkness. Then the lights switched back to the land, the helicopters swerved over the city again, as if they had picked up another trail. They were gone. The Hound was gone. (Bradbury 65)SMALL ACTIONS CAN HAVE A LARGE IMPACTWhile the primary protagonists in the stories fight and survive the odds, people in their own small ways can contribute to improving things, influencing the society in a positive way. In the Hunger Games, Rue helps Katniss and wins her friendship, who in turn helps her, “My eyes follow the line of her finger up into the foliage above me” (Collins 184). This not only brings them closer together but also bridges the gap between their districts. This can be seen later when Thresh, the male tribute, as well as the citizens of District 11 help Katniss:This bread came from District 11. I cautiously lift the still warm loaf. What must it have cost the people of District 11 who can’t even feed themselves? How many would’ve had to do without to scrape up a coin to put in the collection for this one loaf? (Collins 235)Correspondingly, in Fahrenheit 451, an old woman defiantly chooses to immolate herself, instead of living a life of incarceration without her beloved books, “The woman replied quietly, ‘I want to stay here'” (Bradbury 18). A large number of learned people, prefer to live a harsh life in the countryside, hoping to keep the knowledge and wisdom alive for a future generation of society, that seems to have little interest in them, “And when the war’s over, someday, some year, the books can be written again, the people will be called in, one by one, to recite what they know and we’ll set it up in type” (Bradbury 71). The authors are trying to influence society by suggesting that everyone can make a difference, and that seemingly small actions can have a profound impact. So, in a way, everyone in the society is responsible for its betterment.DANGERS OF ESCAPIST ENTERTAINMENTAnother recurring theme that occurs in several texts is the dangers of escapist or quick entertainment that does not require much critical thinking. While this may seem to be more relevant to the fast, modern life, there are examples from ancient practices that illustrate that this problem has existed for a long time. The authors warn that such a society places little value on human life. They attempt to change society by warning the readers of the dangers of such a society. We see this in the context of the gladiatorial games in ancient Rome, where gladiators were often killed in the arena for the entertainment of the public. This is explained by, “At this point, the crowd would indicate with gestures whether they wished the defeated gladiator to be killed or spared” (McManus). Some other works of fiction describe similar scenarios. In The Hunger Games, tributes from different districts are killed in games for the entertainment of the residents of the Capitol, “I count the shots. One . . . two . . . three . . . on and on until they reach eleven. Eleven dead in all. Thirteen left to play”(Collins 149). Similarly, in Fahrenheit 451, an innocent man is killed by the hound, just because the people wanted to see an end to the chase, and the government did not want to lose face:The camera fell upon the victim, even as did the Hound. Both reached him simultaneously. The victim was seized by Hound and camera in a great spidering, clenching grip. He screamed. He screamed. He screamed! (Bradbury 68).The authors warn that such societies make way for fascist and totalitarian regimes. Human life has very little value, and people can lose their liberties for minor transgressions. Society becomes oblivious to the actions of the government, and even its own responsibilities of electing competent individuals, “I voted last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he’s one of the nicest-looking men who ever became president”(Bradbury 45), and holding the government accountable. Such carelessness can lead to disastrous results, including nuclear wars, “And the war began and ended in that instant” (Bradbury 73). The authors want people to be more responsible, elect people based on their competence, instead of their names or looks, and hold the governments accountable.CONCLUSIONThe examination of multiple texts, spread over different geographies, time period, and genres, suggests that underneath the veneer of an entertaining story, or an informative essay, there is often an undercurrent of an effort to guide, influence, and transform society. It can be further concluded that many of the challenges are not only timeless but also appear in all kinds of society, irrespective of wealth, political structure, geographical location, etc. The struggle to change society to help it overcome such challenges is ongoing, and unlike to abate in near future.


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