The first piece of “literature” that I can recall reading in school was Dr. Suess’s The Lorax. I remember the Once’ler coming and cutting down all of the Truffula trees to make his “Thneeds” that everyone needed oh so very much. In the end, the reader is left with the clear message of taking care of the earth if we want it to be around for years to come. Ever since then, I have always assumed the rest of the literature I would read for school would be similar to The Lorax. There is a beginning, middle and end with characters who have a conflict but end up teaching the reader a lesson in the end. That was until, however, I read Doyle’s short story The Adventure of the Cardboard Box.
Let something be clear though. I do not intend for the reader of this blog to believe Doyle’s story was written poorly or lacked the qualities of good writing, because it certainly did not. There were descriptive literary devices used throughout as well as complex vocal that I admit I had to google every once in a while. The story satisfied the characteristics I have known needed for a story to be classified at literature except for the reader being left to learn a lesson. At the end of the The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, I found myself surprisingly satisfied with the interesting tale of Holmes but found that I was lacking that life lesson that usually comes from literature. I never really considered questioning the stories academic relevance until I was asked to write this blog post and consider if it really is literature.
I think this speaks volumes of what we as students have been programmed to recognize literature as. We assume that stories only reach that level if they fulfill certain requirements. But isn’t is sad that just because we enjoy a story be believe it cannot have any literary value? Just because I didn’t count the pages until the story was over or need to take a break in order to let my mind rest and get away from the book doesn’t mean what I read doesn’t have any value. I think it is important for educators and those getting educated to remember that literature should be enjoyed and it that is all that you get out of it, then that is okay. That does not make it any less valuable in the literary community. It might even make it more valuable.