Thursday, June 23, 2011

What’s The Meaning Of This?!

Literary Blog Hop

This week The Literary Blog Hop over at The Blue Bookcase wants to know: Should literature have a social, political, or any other type of agenda? Does having a clear agenda enhance or detract from its literary value?

I’m going to try to keep my answer simple this week: It depends on the author. The example of what an author shouldn’t do that Connie gives is excellent. Even though it’s from a book I really enjoyed, Jane Eyre, Brontë’s stopping the story to push her agenda takes away from the work. I also liked the examples Connie gives of how a social/political agenda works in literature. Like 1984, I think The Handmaid’s Tale as well as Margaret Atwood’s other dystopian works, Oryx and Crake and The Year Of The Flood have agendas or are at least commentaries on social issues. I believe H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine falls into the same category. The Eloi and Morlocks are how he saw the evolution of the class system. I’d like to use a literary example that isn’t dystopian or science-fiction, but none come to mind right now*.

What books do you think do a good or bad job at presenting a social or political issue?

* I blame the baby brain for any lack of mental function right now. After the baby is born, I’ll be blaming lack of sleep.


  1. Yay for baby being an excuse generator! Make sure to milk that for all it's worth!

    Good call with The Handmaid's Tale. I didn't think of it but it certainly seems to be a novel with a specific agenda that is great. To Kill a Mockingbird certainly has social commentary in it and that book works beautifully.

  2. Charles Dickens used his works to draw attention to the terrible conditions of the working class and poor in Victorian England. I think books can be used for constructive purposes, but I don't like a novel that's too preachy -- for instance, "Dinner with a Perfect Stranger", which is like a Chick Tract in book form.

  3. I still blame my lack of depth on having to deal with teenagers and my youngest son is 23!

    I say, Don't preach at me. No one wants someone to tell them what to do.

    Here's my post: "All a Poet Can Do is Warn."

  4. Most of the books I can think of that have political/social agendas (like the ones you mention) are good books. That is why they have endured.

    Here is my post (and a literary giveaway!)

  5. Great response, Loni! If you can believe it I still have YET to read The Handmaid's Tale, even though I'm quite certain I will love it when I do. Your post makes me want to go pick it up right now....

    On another note, reading your post reminded me of another work I read and reviewed recently that incorporated an agenda very unsuccessfully -- Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was ALL agenda and NO story. Gag.

    Thanks for joining in the hop!

  6. I think it depends on the author. Many authors have written powerful books brimming with political and social commentary, while others use their work to promote a political agenda at the expense of good writing. Some authors can pull it off, while others can't.

  7. Red, pregnancy/babies are the best excuse generators! I think Handmaid's Tale and To Kill A Mockingbird are both fantastic in their stories and social commentaries.

    smellincoffee, Deb, preachy novels bother me too.

    LBC, there are a few out there that are preachy and they put can put a bad spin on a good book that deals with the same issue.

    Connie, I think The Handmaid's Tale is a fantastic novel and I encourage everyone to read it. I doubt I'll ever read Herland.

    Ahab, I completely agree.