In the literal sense, the word “literature” means any collection of writing. Literature includes all types of written works, whether it be novels or nonfiction pieces. These categories can be broken down into smaller ones: fantasy, science fiction, biographies, and autobiographies, to name a few. When people think of the word “literature” though, they normally think of classics or novels. In class, we thought of some of common things that many types of literature include: figurative language, references to other literature, and stylistic writing. I think that the most important thing that literature must have is a purpose – either to inform or to tell a story.
With these criteria in mind, I do think of “The Adventures of the Cardboard Box” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a piece of literature. It’s not the kind of writing that would fall under “beneficial to students’ learning” because it doesn’t teach the reader any sort of moral lesson, but at the same time Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are classic stories that everyone knows and loves. Even though there may not be a lesson in each short story, the purpose could be purely to entertain the reader. Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve complicated murders while still being sharp and witty keeps readers engaged, and, as opposed to many other forms of literature that students often read, is actually enjoyable. Doyle even includes all of our class’s literature criteria in the story. Even if the Sherlock Holmes short stories had not already been considered a classic, I would definitely think of it as a very qualified form of literature.
In my opinion, we should be reading more literature like this in school. I think it is important for stories to include some sort of moral lesson, so not all of the Sherlock Holmes stories would work. In general, though, students are so much more likely to read books that they genuinely enjoy, and they are also more likely to want to discuss those books with their peers. The stereotypical idea of literature does not always elicit positive thoughts for many people because often times these works are difficult to read and even more difficult to talk about. For example, Shakespeare’s plays are considered “classic” literature. They include a lot of figurative language, are written in a particular style, and contain some lesson that is valuable to readers. The difference between Shakespeare and Doyle is that most students want to read about Sherlock Holmes much more than they want to read about Othello and Macbeth. Yes, reading Shakespeare is a challenge and should definitely be taught in schools because it will force students to look deeper than just the words on the page. That said, you could analyze Shakespeare’s plays in hundreds of ways that Shakespeare himself would never have even imagined. My point is that “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” should be considered literature as much as anything else we read in school because it still has some purpose that would benefit readers. There are so many different types of literature that students should be exposed to, and there is no real difference between Doyle’s work and Shakespeare’s work other than their individual styles. It is important to find a balance in reading literature so that people can find their own interests and pursue them outside of the classroom in addition to inside it.