When I think of “typical” English class literature, I think of Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, or To Kill a Mockingbird. Like we discussed in class, it includes few literary devices and lacks the controlled tone of the plays and novels that I listed above. We impose these criteria based on our previous knowledge with literature. “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” wouldn’t come to my mind nor do I think that its style is similar to what I previously mentioned. In this sense, the notion of literature that I’ve absorbed has limited my first opinion. However, after talking about the short story in class and thinking about this blog post, I realized that I do still consider “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” to be literature.
At my high school, seniors choose from an array of English class electives including Sixties Protest Literature or Banned Books. The classes read literature tailored to their themes. In my class, Sixties Protest Literature, we read books that were unlike things we had read in the previous years of high school. For example, Armies of the Night by Normal Mailer was written with an extremely conversational tone, and Mailer often trailed off on tangents, ended sentences preemptively, or changed topics quickly. I had never read a book in this style, and it is not written in a style that I would consider “scholarly.” I think of it as literature, as it does have characters and a plot, but I don’t categorize it with the traditional literature that I expect to study in school. Students in the Banned Books class read books that are traditionally banned from the classroom due to a variety of reasons. Although governments and officials consider these books negative and possible not even literature, other people can look at them with a critical eye and analyze their importance, thus again proving the multiple styles of literature.
I think the main goal of literature is for the author to create and communicate a story so that readers understand the plot. Arthur Conan Doyle accomplished this task. In my art history class, we asked the question “what is art? What makes art “art”?” And we concluded that art is art because the artist said so. Similarly, I think that literature is literature because the author says so. Doyle’s short story clearly doesn’t conform to the guidelines of traditional literature, but that does not make Doyle any less erudite or venerable. Instead, readers should approach this story as a chance to experience a new style of literature.