How does reading literature enhance understanding of different cultural perspectives?

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Reading literature impacts an appreciation of and provides further insight to differing cultures as it creatively immerses the reader in a world that may be different from their own. For instance, in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses symbolism to highlight America’s materialistic values, and in Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison uses magical realism to express African American cultural values like freedom and perseverance.

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One of the many benefits of reading literature is that it exposes us to new ways of understanding the world. Our worldviews are in part defined by the culture and place we grew up in, but reading books exposes us to other people, places, and values. It is kind of like traveling without ever having to go anywhere.

Many works of literature express cultural values through techniques like symbolism and imagery. For instance, consider the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this text, Fitzgerald uses symbols like the green light to highlight the materialistic values of American culture. He also uses the characterization of characters like Gatsby and Daisy to bring attention to superficial values. Through Gatsby's tragic tale, Fitzgerald ultimately suggests that valuing money and status are unfulfilling and do not actually lead to the happiness the American dream promises. Many authors use similar approaches, such as Toni Morrison, who uses a great deal of symbolism in her books to express the values of African American culture. However, Toni Morrison also uses some different approaches too, like magical realism. For instance, in her book Song of Solomon, she uses the idea of characters flying to emphasize the value placed on freedom.

When reflecting on the many ways literature expresses cultural values, consider how the texts you have read have taught you about different cultures. Did the authors use similar techniques like symbolism or imagery to express these values, or did they use different techniques? If you point to specific details from each text to support your claim, you will ensure a strong, thoughtful response.

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