Literature is one of the most useful sources of knowledge for human nature. The history of literature contains several seminal works that aid in the transformation of the human psyche and worldview. Readings like Machiavelli’s The Prince, George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant and Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. are very famous works that have got immortalized in the minds of the avid readers all across the world. I value the readings because it gives me a sense of how others in the world analyze things and helps me to be more open-minded to new ideas.
Moreover, these writings work to develop the mind of the reader, so that he or she is able to view the world from the perspective of the author. The amalgamation of various races, cultures, time periods, and genders work together to supplement the vocabulary of the reader, apart from improving the skills of reading and writing.
Machiavelli’s The Prince goes on to analyze how one can acquire and maintain political power. There are as many as twenty six chapters in the book starting with a dedication to Lorenzo de Medici. The author’s intention is to delve deep into the conduct of men of statures as well as the principle of governments that are princely.
Machiavelli goes on to recommend propriety of behavior and character for the princes or those running the governance. These suggestions that are made by the stalwart author transcend the timelines and history, and are still totally relevant for rulers of people who are engaged in governing the nation states.
He says that they should be stingy than being generous. It is very important for the ruler of a state to be able to lead the land by his strength of character. If generosity knows no bounds, the ruler would not be seen as someone who ought to be respected and feared to some extent. The generosity of a ruler would diminish his aura and grip over the land of the kingdom.
They also have to be cruel when needed, rather than being merciful. Cruelty is a part of running a state. If one is too merciful, that person would not be able to exercise his supremacy over the state as the paramount power present. He opines that it is always better to break promises, in case they work against the interests. The interests of the state have to be kept in mind while weighing to see if the promises that have been made can be kept or not. At no point of time, the interest of the ruler and the state can be compromised for fulfilling the promises.
However, the princes need to avoid being despised or avoided by the subjects. He writes, “Coming now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and not cruel.” (Machiavelli) He urges upon the rulers to seek the goodwill of the people of the state. It is also the responsibility of the princes or the governance to undertake huge projects that would enhance their reputation among people. The rulers need to have wise advisors, instead of flatterers.
Thus, the book goes on to widen the perspective about the state machinery, society, and the world. The book is very enlightening with all the advices, insights and opinions. The timelessness of the text is something that is very interesting. The nature and propriety of the ruler or the modern day governments have not changed much as the basic essence have remained the same.
George Orwell’s short story, Shooting an Elephant, is a stirring tale that leaves the avid readers pondering about life and existence. The story goes on to describe the demise of an elephant that was shot down. The story is set in colonial India when the British used to rule over the land.
The narrator of the story experiences three conflicts. He is in a conflict with the British Empire as it has occupied Burma in an unjust way. Moreover, there is a conflict with the Burmese people as they mock the narrator as he is a representative of the British Empire. The third conflict is that within him as he struggles with his self-image and conscience. While the first two conflicts are external in nature, the last one is an internal one. These conflicts complicate his reach objective and clear decisions.
Orwell goes on to proclaim the dilemma when the people have the expectation from groups of people to act in a certain way. He shows how humans get influenced easily. The ill-effects of imperialism on both the sides are evident to the readers as they read the story. Orwell turns himself into the victim to show the negativity of the imperialist forces. He shows how humans tend to do things so that they do not look foolish in certain situations. The story is an exploration into the psyche of the author, and human nature in general. The author pens, “I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.” (Orwell)
Thus, the story is not just about the death of the elephant at the hands of the narrator, but it extends to become a document of the emotions and the situation in which the narrator was during the killing. It helps in establishing a better perspective about the society, people, and human actions. The conflict of the races and cultures is evident from the mockery and expectations described in the text.
The writing by Martin Luther King is widely known for the quintessence of eloquence and the use of various literary techniques like logos, ethos and pathos in the text. This letter was written in response to the open letters written by eight clergymen citing King’s decision of the march as untimely and unsolicited. King wrote to defend his position.
The letter is entailed by the historical background of racism that was prevalent in the United States of America at that time. King writes, “I have been disappointed with the white church and its leadership.” (King) The letter is a voice of dissent that goes on to oppose the baleful practice of racism and discrimination against the black people of the society. The letter goes on to urge upon the blacks of the society to come in unison, so that they can stand up against the wrong practice that occluded their path of equality and respect.
The letter is passionate and emotional, and exposes how the blacks faced discrimination at the hands of the white people of the nation. The writing appeals to one and all transcending the differences of race, community or religion. King’s words speak of humanity and human rights that is one of the basic things that a state or society should ensure.
Thus, all the three texts delve deep into the society and issues of state in their contemporary times. Yet, all of the writings have transcended the barriers of time to become immortal in the minds of the readers across the globe. The universal relevance, appeal and contextual message make these texts stand out. They work to transform the perspective of any reader, apart from supplementing the knowledge and understanding of cultures, race, community, and societies.
King, Jr, Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Machiavelli. The Prince.
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant.