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World Literature Essay

Part I: Do you agree with Plato that having your emotions stirred on behalf of a character in a story undermines your ability to control your own emotions? Why or why not? Initially I did not agree with Plato when he states that having your emotions stirred on behalf of a character undermines your ability to control your own emotions, after reading and analyzing his reasons for making this assertion I now agree. Plato believes that it is “best to bear misfortune as quietly as possible without resentment (Plato 369)”, emotions should not be openly expressed in public because by doing that we are “”hindering ourselves from the reflection (Plato 369)”, which in turns effects and cloud our reason and judgment. When it comes to characters in a story, Plato claims that theses stories imitate the worst parts of the soul instead of the best; it is what makes the characters exciting and fun. “There is in you an impulse to play the clown, which you have held in restraint from a reasonable fear of being set down as a buffoon; but now you have given it rein, and by encouraging its impudence at the theatre you may be unconsciously carried away into playing the comedian in your private life (Plato 370)”.

The characters nourish passions within ourselves that “should be allowed to wither away and sets them in control (Plato 370)”. Because of these characters, we begin to empathize with those who are socially unacceptable, the excessive grievers, lusters, and those who laugh at inappropriate things, and feel no shame; we feel no shame because they are fictional characters and not ourselves. Subconsciously, as we begin to empathize with these characters, it directly reflects our lives, once we begin to acknowledge these parts within ourselves it becomes harder to suppress them, causing these less that socially acceptable parts of ourselves to become more of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world, straying us further away from our reason. Part II: What is “catharsis of emotions”? Do you agree with Aristotle that it can be obtained by experiencing dramatic fiction? Catharsis of emotions is the purification or release of emotions, “with incidents arousing pity and fear (Aristotle 373).” Essentially, catharsis is the purification of emotions, primarily pity and fear, through a maximal shift in emotion that causes an awakening within a person.

I am in total agreement with Aristotle when he says that a catharsis of emotions can be obtained by experiencing dramatic fiction. Aristotle states that “fiction is imitation of life, and so we learn about life from fiction.” I believe one of our defining characteristics as humans is our ability to empathize; we closely associate people and things with ourselves. Seeing that fiction is an imitation of real life, we often see a bit of ourselves within the characters and connect and relate with them on a level that allows ourselves to experience the journey as they experience it and awaken a new found knowledge within and about ourselves as they also have. I will use myself as example; The Awakening is one of my favorite books of all time because of the fact that I saw myself in Edna, she seemed to have everything in order in her life on the outside looking in, yet she had an emptiness, an emptiness that stemmed from her trying to please everyone else instead of doing what made her happy.

I did this for a long time, I would also consider everyone else before I considered myself and I found myself going down a path that was chosen for me instead of what I chose for myself. Although Edna’s journey was a bit more dramatic than mines, in reading her journey to her awakening I had my own, in order to be happy in life you have to make your own decision and stand by them even if it makes someone else unhappy. I am not saying be selfish and inconsiderate, but be knowing of who you are and what you want for yourself. Part III: Is imaginative storytelling, with all its conflations, combinations, and exaggerations, a form of lying? What would Augustine think based on your close reading of his text? Whether Augustine perceives imaginative storytelling as a form of lying or not is dependent on circumstance and their reasons behind writing the fictional story.

“whether it is a lie when a person willingly utters even a truth for the purpose of deceiving—this may be doubted. But none doubts that it is a lie when a person willingly utters a falsehood for the purpose of deceiving: therefore a false utterance put forth with will to deceive is manifestly a lie. But whether this alone is a lie, is another question (Augustine 90)”.

Augustine would consider the purpose of the deed to be more important than the actual deed: he states in the above quote that even the truth can be perceived as a lie if it utters to deceive. Imaginative storytelling, for entertainment purposes, is not intended to deceive the audience or trick them into believe what they are telling to be factual. Instead, storytellers offer fictional events, characters, and places, with the intentions to either entertain or teach a valuable life lesson through someone else’s actions or decisions.

Augustine states, “when a thing is either done or said figuratively, it is no lie. (Augustine 91)”. Imaginative storytelling, for the purposes of teaching a lesson, although it presents fictional characters, places, and events, it not meant to be perceived literally, but figuratively; instead of focusing on the aspects that are not real, we are to focus of the lessons that come from it. These stories are not perceived as lies because “either they are approved on the score of a progress towards improvement and hope of better things; or, in virtue of some hidden signification, they are not altogether lies…. (Augustine 91).”

Works Cited:

Aristotle. “Poetics.” World Literature: An Anthology of Great Short Stories, Poetry, and Drama. By Donna Rosenberg. New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 2004. 372-374. Print.

Plato. “The Republic.” World Literature: An Anthology of Great Short Stories, Poetry, and Drama. By Donna Rosenberg. New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 2004. 368-369. Print.

St.Augustine. “On Lying.” World Literature: An Anthology of Great Short Stories, Poetry, and Drama. By Donna Rosenberg. New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 2004. 88-89. Print.

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